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Issued February 29, 1908. 












Bui. 32, Biological Survey, U. S. Oept. of Agriculture. 

Plate I. 

Cardinal and Gray Grosbeaks. 

[Top figure, male cardinal; middle figure, male gray grosbeak; bottom figure, female 



Issued February 29, 1908. 











U. S. Department of Agriculture, 

Bureau of Biological Survey, 
Washingto?i, D. (7., November 7, 1907. 
Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith for publication as 
Bulletin No. 32 of the Biological Survey a report on the food habits 
of the grosbeaks, by W. L. McAtee. The grosbeaks are a small group 
of finches, hitherto more widely appreciated for their bright plum- 
age, sweet song, and attractiveness as cage birds than for their serv- 
ices to agriculture. These are here shown to be of such character 
as to entitle the several members of the group to every consideration 
at the hands of the farmer. 

The illustrations which accompany this paper are considered essen- 
tial to a proper understanding of the text. 

Respectfully, H. W. Henshaw, 

Acting Chief Biological Survey. 
Hon. James Wilson, 

Secretary of Agriculture. 



Introduction 5 

Cardinal 5 

Distribution and habits 5 

Economic relations 6 

Vegetable food ! 7 

Animal food 13 

Mineral matter 23 

Nestlings 23 

Summary 24 

List of seeds, fruits, and invertebrates eaten 25 

Gray grosbeak 28 

Appearance, distribution, and habitsi 28 

Economic relations 28 

Vegetable food 28 

Animal food 29 

Mineral matter 31 

Summary 31 

List of seeds and invertebrates eaten 32 

Rose-breasted grosbeak i. 33 

Appearance, distribution, and habits 33 

Economic relations 34 

Vegetable food 34 

Animal food 42 

Mineral matter 55 

Nestlings '_ 55 

Summary 57 

List of seeds, fruits, other vegetable substances, and invertebrates 

eaten 58 

Black-headed grosbeak 60 

Appearance, distribution, and habits 60 

Economic relations 60 

Vegetable food 61 

Animal food 68 

Mineral matter 74 

Nestlings 74 

Summary 75 

List of seeds, fruits, and invertebrates en ten 76 

Blue grosbeak 78 

Appearance, distribution, and habits 78 

Economic relations 78 

Vegetable food - 79 

Animal food 81 

Mineral matter 83 

Young 84 

Summary 84 

List of seeds, fruits, and invertebrates eaten 85 

Relations of grosbeaks and other birds to parasitic insects 86 

General conclusion 89 




I Page. 

Plate I. Cardinal and gray grosbeaks Frontispiece 

II. Seeds and fruits eaten by grosbeaks 10 

III. Black-headed and rose-breasted grosbeaks 34 

IV. Blue grosbeaks 78 


Fig. 1. Seeds of smartweed 11 

2. Seeds of cockspur grass 12 

3. Seeds of blue vervain 12 

4. Seeds of ribgrass . 12 

5. Seeds of corn groin well 13 

6. Seeds of ragweed 13 

7:> Caterpillar hunter 14 

8. Bollworm or corn-ear worm 10 

9. Cotton cut-worm 16 

10. Zebra caterpillar 17 

11. Harvest-fly 17 

12. Billbug 19 

13. Figeater 19 

14. Rose-beetle 20 

15. A flower eating scarabaeid 20 

16. Locust leaf-miner 21 

17. Seeds of yellow foxtail 29 

18. Seeds of rough tumbleweed__. 29 

19. Cotton boll weevil 30 

20. Cotton worm 31 

21. Seeds of black bindweed 41 

22. Pine buprestid 44 

23. Seed corn scarabseid 45 

24. Plum curculio 46 

25. Potato beetle 47 

26. Spotted cucumber-beetle 49 

27. Fall cankerworm _■ 51 

28. Army worm 51 

29. Orchard tent-caterpillar 52 

30. Gipsy moth 52 

31. Brown-tail moth 53 

32. Buffalo tree-hopper 54 

33. Australian ladybird 69 

34. Codling moth 72 

35. Spring cankerworm : 73 

36. Black olive scale ■___'__ 73 

37. Seeds of green foxtail 81 

38. Purslane caterpillar 82 

39. Lesser migatory locust S3 

40. Coral-winged locust .. 84 




Two distinct groups of finches or sparrows are commonly known 
as grosbeaks. One of these, which includes the pine and evening 
grosbeaks, is of little practical importance, since its members breed 
and pass most of their lives in mountainous regions, or in the northern 
parts of North America. The other group includes the cardinal, 
gray, rose-breasted, black-headed, and blue grosbeaks, which spend 
either the summer or the entire year within agricultural regions of 
the United States. Hence their food habits are of considerable im- 
portance to the farmer. 

The members of the first-named group may be dismissed with the 
statement that during the period when they occur in non-mountainous 
districts their food consists largely of wild seeds and berries. Appar- 
ently the best relished are those of mountain ash, choke cherry, box 
elder, white ash, and maple, and of spruce, red cedar, and other con- 
iferous trees. The food habits of the second group are treated in 
detail in the following pages. 

(Cardinalis cardinalis. Plate I, Frontispiece.) 

The brilliant and easily recognized cardinal ranges over much of 
North America. It occurs from southernmost Mexico and northern 
Central America north to New York, Ontario, and northern Iowa, 
and west to central Kansas, Arizona, and Lower California. In 
parts of this area the size and color have been so modified by climatic 
and other causes that 12 varieties or subspecies are distinguishable. 
Five of these reside in the United States, and while they bear no dis- 
tinctive vernacular names, the species as a whole is well supplied, 
being variously known as cardinal grosbeak or cardinal, Virginia 
nightingale, redbird, and also as the crested or topknot redbird, 
in distinction from the summer redbird or tanager. 

The cardinal is resident wherever found ; that is, the neighborhood 
where the bird rears its young is its home throughout the year. It is 
most abundant perhaps in the Southern States, where almost univer- 



sally it is known as the redbird, and is often kept as a household pet. 
Affection for the bird, however, is not confined to the South, for its 
loud, ringing song, bright plumage, and vivacious manner make it a 
favorite wherever it lives. When winter's snows cover its favorite 
feeding grounds the redbird becomes bolder and seeks its fare about 
sheds and barns and even among the horses' feet. Spring return- 
ing, its natural food supplies are once more available, and then the 
cardinal mostly frequents hedges, fence rows, and brushy thickets. 
The cardinal is one of the few birds which sings throughout the year, 
although, of course, its songs are rendered more frequently and in 
greater perfection during the breeding season. 

The nest is loosely built and generally is placed in a bush or vine, 
often in the densest tangles ; in it three or four speckled eggs are laid. 
The first set of eggs usually is completed in May, but the second 
clutch is sometimes postponed until late summer. The cardinal is 
very sensitive to any interference in its domestic affairs, and un- 
finished nests and even those containing full complements of eggs 
are deserted upon slight provocation. Hence one who would have 
cardinals for neighbors must see to it that the birds' privacy is un- 
disturbed. The male redbird is a model parent, rushing to the de- 
fense of the nest in every emergency, doing a great share of the 
feeding and otherwise caring for the young. The first birds of the 
year usually begin to shift for themselves about midsummer. 

The nest of the redbird is often within a few feet of the ground, 
and this circumstance leads to the destruction of many sets of eggs 
and broods of 3 r oung by snakes, cats, and prowling wild mammals. 
Hence the bird needs protection, and when this is afforded it easily 
maintains its numbers. 


As mentioned above, the cardinal has ever been a favorite cage 
bird, and in some localities in the south great numbers have been 
trapped and sold into captivity. In times past it has suffered 
greatly also from the persecution of millinery collectors. Despite 
legal enactments against the killing of birds for hat gear, even yet 
the practice has by no means ceased, and among other useful birds 
the cardinal still suffers to a greater or less degree. In the District 
of Columbia cardinals were noted on hats as late as 1906. 

The extent of the former traffic in wild birds for cage purposes 
was remarkable. " Thousands of mockingbirds, cardinals,, indigo 
birds, and other bright-plumaged species were formerly trapped for 
sale in this country and abroad, and so assiduously did the bird trap- 
pers ply their vocation that in some localities these species were al- 
most exterminated." a 

°T. S. Palmer, Yearbook, Department of Agriculture, 1905, pp. 557-558. 


Referring to the cardinal in particular. Nuttall a makes the state- 
ment : 

So liiglily were these birds esteemed for their melody that, according to 
Gemelli Carreri [who wrote in 1699], the Spaniards of Havana, in a time of 
public distress and scarcity, bought so many of these birds * * * that the 
sum expended, at ten dollars apiece, amounted to no less that 18,000 dollars. 

The liking of the islanders for this bird has suffered no abatement 
in later days, according to W. E. D. Scott, 6 who wrote in 1889 : " The 
cardinal is in great demand as a pet by the Cubans, and on that 
account is a regular feature of the auction rooms, being supplied 
from the northern keys and the mainland " [of Florida]. However, 
recent laws, while they have not wholly put an end to these baneful 
practices, have greatly restricted them, and the cardinal, along with 
other insectivorous birds, is nowadays comparatively well protected. 

That from an economic standpoint the bird deserves complete 
protection, the following discussion of its food habits will make 
clear. Four hundred and ninety-eight stomachs of this species have 
been examined. They were collected during every month of the year 
and in twenty States, the District of Columbia, and Ontario. But 
for the fact that this material is unevenly distributed, seasonally 
and geographically, the results obtained from its examination would 
be perfectly satisfactory. As it is, Texas is much more completely 
represented than any other State, and May than any month, while 
the feeding habits for June and October are known only from exam- 
ination of a very small number of stomachs. These conditions neces- 
sarily affect the results, but in view of the large number of stomachs, 
it is believed that a fairly correct idea of the normal food habits of 
the species has been obtained. As a result of our investigations it 
appears that, for each of the twelve months, the cardinal averages 
28.99 percent of animal food and 71.01 percent of vegetable. The 
maximum percentage of animal food for any one month is 78.4, 
being the average for 123 birds taken in May. The minimum is 4.9 
for 41 birds in January. 

Vegetable Food. 

It is generally stated that the cardinal is largely, if not entirely, 
vegetarian. While this statement is. perhaps too strong, the result 
of the present investigation leaves no doubt that vegetable prod- 
ucts compose the redbird's main subsistence at nearly all times of 
the year. In only one month do they constitute less than half the 
food, while for the entire year they average 71.01 percent. Grain 
amounts to 8.73 percent; wild fruit, only the seeds of which are 
usually eaten, composes 24.17 percent; weed and other seeds 36.38 
percent, and miscellaneous vegetable substances 1.73 percent. 

a Manual of Ornithology, The Land Birds, 1832, p. 525. 
6 Auk. VI, 1889, p. 324, quoting Atkins. 


A little more than 7.1 out of a total of 8.73 percent of grain eaten 
by the cardinal grosbeak is corn, while other cereals, including wheat, 
oats, sorghum, and rice, constitute the remaining 1.62 percent. Eleven 
birds had eaten oats, 4 wheat, 2 sorghum, and 1 rice, but so trifling 
is the percentage of these grains that practically no damage is done 
except under very unusual conditions, such as the concentration of a 
great number of redbirds in a small area; but this is improbable, 
because the redbird usually is nongregarious. 

In regard to corn, however, which was eaten by 68 of the birds 
examined, more extended consideration is desirable. The redbird's 
fondness for Indian corn is noted by many writers, but extensive 
injury to the crop is charged by very few. Leverett M. Loomis, a in 
writing of the birds of South Carolina, says the cardinal is " held in 
considerable ill repute because of its alleged depredations on newly 
planted corn." A correspondent in Alabama writes that the redbird 
is injurious to corn in the roasting-ear stage, and that it also " pulls 
the corn in the spring when it is just up with two or three leaves." 
Little direct evidence concerning the redbird's depredations on corn 
is derivable from our examinations, because none of the birds studied 
were collected in newly planted fields or where corn was exposed to 
attack. It should be stated, however, that during March, April, and 
May, which months cover the planting seasons from southernmost 
United States to Canada, less than the average amount of corn is con- 
sumed. Corn constitutes a greater proportion of the food in January 
than in any other month, and practically all eaten at this season is 
waste. So also in November and December, when corn makes up 4 
and 7 percent, respectively. Waste grain is often eaten in spring and 
even in midsummer, according to observations by the writer. 

The cardinal is said to bore into grain stacks and also to visit corn- 
cribs in winter, but probably it does so only under stress of unusual 
circumstances, as deep snow, and in all likelihood the damage is 
trivial. Lining the crib with medium-meshed wire netting, which 
can be done at small cost, will prevent access by the birds, and at the 
same time guard against attacks of rodents and poultry, while in no 
way interfering with the necessary ventilation. 

Considerable corn is eaten by the redbird during June, July, and 
August, and a portion of this may be pilfered from the standing 
crop. At this season, however, the birds are scattered, and it is not 
likely that much damage results in any one locality. 

From the above it appears that present evidence does not suffice 
to determine the exact relation of the redbird to the corn crop, 
although, so far as it goes, it is in the bird's favor. To summarize : 

a Auk. VII, 1890, p. 125. 


Very few complaints have been made of attacks on corn by the reel- 
bird. Though this evidence is negative, it possesses some weight, 
since accusations against serious grain pests are always numerous and 
emphatic. The greatest proportion of corn is eaten in winter, hence 
is waste ; and finally, the redbird does not flock habitually, and never 
at a season when corn is exposed to attack. For these reasons it may 
be concluded that the cardinal's depredations on corn are of little 


Wild fruit, or rather the seeds of wild fruit, pulp being present in 
very few stomachs, was eaten by 312 of the redbirds examined, and, 
with the exception of weed seeds, is the largest item of the vegetable 
food. Of all fruits wild grapes are most important. From November 
to April their seeds constitute 17 percent of the cardinal's fare. They 
were eaten by 178 birds and in every month, forming on the average 
11.9 percent of the subsistence throughout the year. Three species, 
the summer grape (Vitis aestivalis, PL II, fig. 8), the frost grape 
(V. cordifolia) , and the bullace or southern fox grape (F. rotundi- 
folia) were identified, and there is no doubt that the redbird feeds 
upon all kinds of wild grapes growing within its range. Although 
wild grapes are such favorite food, they seldom are swallowed whole, 
only one or two entire grapes being found in the stomachs. Further, 
very few entire seeds are swallowed. The seeds are generally crushed 
and ground by the powerful beak into such small bits that their iden- 
tification is very difficult. 

The presence of great numbers of fruit seeds with little or no pulp 
is accounted for by well-known habits of the bird. It searches con- 
tinually among leaves and rubbish on the ground, Avhere it secures 
many of the seeds and shriveled fruits. It also gathers dried berries 
from the vines in winter. 

The fruits of various dogwoods rank next to grapes in the red- 
bird's regimen. They were eaten by 52 birds and constitute 3.97 
percent of the total food examined. Rough-leaved (PL II, fig. 6) 
and flowering dogwood (PL II, fig. 5) seeds were identified. Any 
one familiar with the intense bitterness of these fruits will admit 
that the cardinal possesses considerable individuality of taste. 

All fruits united, other than cornel berries and grapes, form 8.3 
percent of the annual food. Most important among them are black- 
berries and raspberries, which were eaten by 3L birds. Mulber- 
ries were eaten by 31, and hackberries by 23 redbircls. Among the 
latter fruits two species were identified — the common hackberry or 
sugar berry (Celtis occidentalism PL II, fig. 2) and the southern 
hackberry (C. mississippiensis). The last named was eaten by nearly 
20 cardinals collected in one localitv in Texas. Smilax seeds, iden- 


tified as of the bristly or bamboo greenbrier (Smilax bona-nox), 
which are almost as hard as wood, were taken by 2 individuals. It 
would be well for humankind if more birds were fond of the seeds 
of these detestable vines. One cardinal ate seeds of Solomon's seal 
{Polygonatum bifloram). 

Cherries also are on the redbird's bill of fare. One correspondent 
states that redbirds filch cultivated varieties, but as none appeared in 
any of the stomachs examined, the occurrence probably is exceptional. 
Chokecherries are consumed, however, and Dr. A. K. Fisher has 
observed a cardinal eating the fruit of a seedling cherry {Prunus 

Wilson says cardinals feed upon the seeds of apples, but this habit 
also must be rare ; in the course of the present investigation no culti- 
vated fruit of any kind was found. 

Six cardinals devoured blueberries (Vaccinium spp. including V. 
virgatum), three ate the aromatic berries of spice bush {Lindera 
benzoin), and 6 took the purple fruit of the pokeberry {Phytolacca 
decandra, PI. II, fig. 4). The seeds of the succulent fruit of the 
prickly pear {Opuntia opuntia, PL II, fig. 9) were found in the 
stomachs of 3 cardinals, taken near the District of Columbia, where 
the plant abounds on the rocky banks of the upper Potomac. Six 
redbirds fed upon the drupes of sumac, including those of the poison 
ivy {Rhus radicans) and of the skunk bush {Rhus trilobata). These 
fruits are sometimes eagerly sought. The writer once in winter 
observed a scattering flock of 50 or more redbirds feeding on the 
berries of scarlet sumac. 

The elderberry, which is so relished by the rose-breasted grosbeak, 
is rather neglected by the cardinal, only 2 having selected it. Two 
also ate ground cherries and black haws, while but 1 stomach con- 
tained rose hips, though the bird has often been observed devouring 
these fruits. Juneberries {Amelanchier canadensis, PI. II, fig. 3) 
and others of the same genus are eaten; both holly {Ilex opaca) and 
inkberry (/. glabra) are occasionally secured, as well as red cedar 
berries {Juniperus virginiana) , the fruit of the knockaway tree 
{Ehretia elliptica), and red haws {Crataegus sp.). In a stomach col- 
lected in South Carolina in January were more than 12 seeds of the 
berry of the passion flower {Passifora incarnata) . To the above list 
of fruits eaten by the cardinal, various authors add the wahoo berry 
{Euonymus sp.), Mexican mulberry {Callicarpa americana), and 
drupes of the cabbage palmetto {Sabal palmetto) and saw palmetto 
{Serenoa serrulata). 

Among many items of vegetable food -to be classed as miscellane- 
ous are some of particular interest. Acorns were eaten by a few 
cardinals and one bird even selected a hickory nut. The strength of 
bill necessary to shear into such hard seeds may be imagined, and it 

Bui. 32, Biological Survey, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture. 

Plate II. 


[1, Wild black cherry (Prnnus sewtina). 2, Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis). 3, Juneberry 
(Amelanchier canadensis). 4, Pokeberry (Plnjtolacca decandra). 5, Flowering dogwood 
(Cornus florida). 6, Rough-leaved dogwood i Cornus asperifolia). 7, Spiderwort (Tra- 
descantia virginiana). 8, Summer grape ( Vitis aestivalis). 9. Indian fig {Opuntia opun- 
tia). 10. Bur grass {Cenchrus tribuloides). 11. Button weed (Diodia teres). 12, Milk 
thistle (Mariana mariniana). 1. Natural size; 2, 5. 9. 10 (bur), magnified twice; 6, 7, 8, 
11. 12, magnified three times: 3, 4, 10 (seeds), magnified four times.] 


is noteworthy that the cardinal appears to be the only one of the 
grosbeaks which uses its massive beak for the purpose for which it 
seems especially designed, namely, the cracking and grinding of hard 
seeds. The samaras of maple were found in a few stomachs, and in 
Florida Mr. C. J. Maynard a observed more than 20 cardinals feeding 
on the seeds of a single maple. The somewhat similar winged seeds 
of the tulip tree also serve as food, and, according to the experience 
of the writer, are a favorite winter diet of the redbird around Wash- 
ington. Galls were eaten by 4 birds, and buds, which often have been 
stated to be especially sought after by grosbeaks, by only 2. 

The seeds of bindweeds, grasses, sedges, etc., form 36.38 percent of 
the entire food — more than half of the vegetable diet of the species. 
They were eaten by 361 of the birds examined, and range from 6 to 49 
percent of the fare in different months, the 
greatest quantity being consumed in winter. 
The seeds of the various smart weeds (fig. 1) 
and bindweeds (fig. 21) are of most impor- 
tance, .having been ^consumed by 81 cardinals 
and constituting 5.57 percent of the annual 
food. Six species were identified, and it is fig. i.— seeds of smart- 
probable that the seeds of all members of this p^oSTr^From 
large genus are eaten indiscriminately. They Hiiiman, Nevada Ex- 
are among the commonest and worst weeds of periment station) 
both dooryards and cultivated fields. Besides being notorious crop 
chokers and seed adulterants, smartweeds are the main support of the 
disastrous corn-root aphids before the latter are transferred to the 
corn bv their ant guardians. Hence the cardinal's habit of devouring 
smartweed seeds is beneficial, not only in abating direct injury by 
these pernicious weeds but also in tending to diminish the number of 
aphids by destroying their most important host plants. 

The seeds of foxtail grasses (figs. IT and 37) are next in impor- 
tance. Foxtail is only too well known for its keen competition with 
cultivated crops, and is to be classed among the most troublesome 
weeds. Its seeds compose 3.21 percent of the cardinal's food, 51 out 
of 498 birds examined having eaten them. Bur grass (Cenchrus 
trihuloides, PI. II, fig. 10) should be mentioned here, as it is pos- 
sible some of its seeds were wrongly classed with those of foxtail, 
the shelled kernels of which they greatly resemble. They liave been 
positively identified in several stomachs. Henry Nehrling b says car- 
dinals " are very fond of bur grass seeds or sand spurs * * * 
s . . 

"Birds of E. N. A., 1881, p. 109. 

b Our Native Birds of Song and Beauty, II, 1896, p. 196. 



which are furnished with formidable spines. This grass is a very vile 
weed of the southern fields and the orange groves of Florida." 

The seeds of other grasses, including 
cockspur grass (Echinochloa crus-galli, 
fig. 2), crab grass {Syntherisma sangui- 
nalis), and allied species, which are 
well-known weeds, were fed upon by 31 
redbirds, yard grass (Eleusine indica) 
by 31, and unidentified grasses by 22. 
Seeds of the nearly related sedges 
(Carex et al.) were devoured by 41 car- 
dinals, those of vervians (Verbena 
hastata, fig. 3, and V. urticce folia) by 
25. Twenty-two birds ate seeds of 
the well-known ragweeds (fig. 6), and 39 those of various spurges. 
Among the other weed seeds eaten in smaller quantities are those 
of dodder, a serious pest in grain crops; 
vetch, dock, sow thistle, plantains, includ- 
ing the detestable ribgrass (fig. 4) ; tum- 
ble weed (fig. 18), sunflower, violets, gera- 
niums, stargrass, spiny sida, corn grom- 
well (fig. 5), spiderwort (PI. II, fig. 7), 

Fife. 2. — Seeds of cockspur grass 
(Echinochloa crns-galli). (From 
Hillmaii, Nevada Experiment 

D a 

Fig. 3. — Seeds of blue vervain 
(Verbena hastaia) . (From 
Hillman, Nevada Experiment 

lamb's-quarters, chickweed, stick-tight, 

sorrel, button weed (PL II, fig. 11), and 

stick-seed. To this list W. D. Doan adds 

clover and partridge pea. a One plant in 

the above list, namely, buttonweed, is 

known also as alligator head in the South, where it is a bad weed in 

rice fields. It has been said that " as the seeds are about the color of 

the soil they are not easily seen and are not apt to be picked up by 

birds." This is 
a mistake, 
however, for 
these seeds are 
devoured by 
many kinds of 
birds, and 
some, as the 
bobwhite, eat 
large numbers 

(From Hillman, of them. 

After plants 

have seeded it is impossible for man appreciably to diminish the 
number of seeds. But this work is the peculiar function of 

Fig. 4. — Seeds of ribgrass (Plantago lanceolata) 
Nevada Experiment Station.) 

a Bull. 3, Agr. Exp. Sta., W. Va., 1888, p. 74. 




—Seeds of corn gromwell (LitJwspermum arvense). 
(From Hillman, Nevada Experiment Station.) 

seed-eating birds, and their great value to the farmer consists in 
the service they render in this direction. The warfare against 
seeds, so costly to him, is waged by the whole body of sparrows and 
other seed-eating birds year in and year out without cessation. Were 
it not for them the 
number of weeds 
would be vastly 
greater and the re-' 
suiting damage cor- 
respondingly larger. 
How great this dam- 
age is will appear 
from the statement 
that the loss to the 
wheat interests of 
Minnesota from dockage, largely due to the presence of weed seed, is 
about $2,500,000 annually . a Moreover, conditions in Minnesota are 
not exceptional, and in every State the total annual loss from weed 
seeds is very great. So far, then, as farmers can protect and increase 
the number of weed-seed eating birds to that extent will they reap the 
benefit of increased service from these faithful servants. The redbird 
eats the seeds of many of the most harmful weeds, making more than 
a third of its subsistence upon them. Hence it occupies a<very impor- 
tant place among the weed-destroying birds, and should be prized 


Animal Food. 

Though in quantity much less than the vegetable food, the animal 
portion of the cardinal's diet is much more diverse and is comprised in 

no less than six 
of the natural 
classes. These are 
myriapods, centi- 
pedes, insects, 
spiders, bivalves, 
and univalves. 
Insects are vastly 
more important 
than the others 
and constitute 
26.25 out of 28.99 
percent, the total 
proportion of animal matter consumed. The percentage is appor- 
tioned among the orders of insects as follows : ^Vasps 0.92, bugs 3.72, 
butterflies (and caterpillars) 5.1, grasshoppers 6.42, and beetles 10.48. 

Fig. 6. 

-Seeds of ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiaefolia) . 
Hillman, Nevada Experiment Station.) 


Bull. 95, Minn. Agr. Exp. Sta., 1906, p. 195. 



The last-named group includes two mainly beneficial families, the 
ground beetles (Carabidse) and the fireflies (Lampyridse). Since the 
destruction of these beetles by the cardinal tends to neutralize the 
good done in other ways, it is important to understand thoroughly 
the nature of the bird's relation to them. Among the most beneficial 
of beetles are the caterpillar hunters (Calosoma, fig. 7), which 
ascend trees in quest of their prey, a rare habit among ground beetles. 
Thus these beetles attack caterpillars in a way others are unable to 
do. Two cardinals ate beetles of this genus. Another large carabid 
(Pasimachus) , an enemy of grasshoppers and the army worm, was 
eaten by one redbird. Others devoured include Harpalus caliginosus, 
which is the bulky black beetle often seen feeding on the flowers of 
ragweed and which is evidently not entirely predaceous, and a 
larva of the nearly related beetle Dicaelus. Three birds captured 
individuals of the medium-sized but very hard Scarites subterraneus, 
which generally hides under stones by day. Specimens of two species 

of Anisodactylus and one beautiful blue 
Callida also were eaten. In all 34 red- 
birds fed upon beetles of this useful 
family, but each must have eaten spar- 
ingly, for the beetles compose but 0.75. 
percent of the entire food, an amount 
too small to be reckoned against the con- 
sumer of more than 8 times that quantity 
of grasshoppers, in addition to many 
other injurious insects. 

Fireflies were eaten by only 4 cardi- 
nals, one of the birds obtaining the com- 
mon black and yellow soldier beetle 
(Chavliognathus marginatum) , which 
commonly feeds on the pollen of midsummer blossoms, and another, 
one of the small black fireflies (Telephorus pusillus) , the larvae of 
which are enemies of some common agricultural pests. Fireflies are 
eaten in such moderate measure that it is impracticable to assign 
them a percent, and we may conclude, so far as the present data go, 
that the cardinal does no appreciable injury to this group of insects. 
The wasps and similar insects (Hymenoptera) include among their 
number many beneficial parasitic species, and for that reason their 
status as food of the redbird must be looked into. Fifty-nine of the 
grosbeaks examined had eaten these insects, but they amount to only 
0.92 percent of the total food. None were positively identified as 
parasitic species, while some injurious forms were distinguished. 
Eleven cardinals ate ants, including the harvesting ants (Pogono- 
myrmex) and the small reddish Lasius, which foster plant lice, nota- 
bly the corn root aphids. One grosbeak ate a sawfly, which also is an 
insect of unsavory reputation. 

Fig. 7 — Caterpillar 
soma scrutator), 

hunter ( Galo- 
(From Riley.) 


The cardinal is frequently alluded to in ornithological literature as 
preying upon bees. Peter Kalm published the first of these state- 
ments in 1770, and the later ones were probably suggested by, if not 
copied from, his. Wilson (1831), Xuttall (1832), and later authors 
reiterate the charge, though the context does not show that any of 
them knew of the matter at first hand. It is quite possible that, so 
far as this particular trait is concerned, the cardinal has been con- 
founded with the similarly colored but otherwise very different sum- 
mer redbird, which is well known to prey upon bees. At any rate, it 
is significant that the present examination did not reveal a single bee 
among the insect food of the redbirds. On the whole, the cardinal 
shows no great relish for Hymenoptera, and among the species eaten 
those injurious to man and the less valuable kinds predominate. 

Among other possibly beneficial insects, the redbirds had eaten an 
assassin bug and a remarkable predaceous neuropteron (Mantispa 
brunnea), also a nymphal and an adult dragon fly. The latter crea- 
tures probably do as much harm in destroying young fish as good in 
preying upon insects. At most, not more than 2 percent, probably 
much less, of the cardinal's food consists of useful insects, while 12 
times as much consists of injurious species, the destruction of which 
is a benefit. 

One of the most important constituents of the major proportion 
is Lepidoptera. They compose 5.08 percent of the annual subsis- 
tence, amounting, however, in May to 26.71 percent. The adults 
taken consist of 5 moths and 1 butterfly, which together make up 0.17 
percent of the food. Caterpillars are much more relished and 137 
redbirds fed upon them, sometimes obtaining from 7 to 18 each. The 
cotton worm (Alabcuncu argillacea, fig. 20), which formerly was a 
serious pest and which even now spoils a late-planted crop, was eaten 
by 3 cardinals. There is evidence that the bird habitually feeds upon 
this insect, and as early as 1885 C. V. Riley remarked ° that " birds 
are of incalculable benefit " in combating the cotton worm, and the 
cardinal is one of those which prey upon it more or less persistently. 

A second cotton pest, the bollworm (Heliothis obsoleta, fig. 8), 
which is familiar also as the corn ear-worm, is occasionally devoured, 
and a third, the cotton cutworm (Prodenia ornithogcdli. fig. 9) is 
greatly relished. Ninety-six of the latter were eaten by 31 cardinals 
from the Texas cotton fields. The destruction of cotton insects by 
the redbird is important, since the bird is numerous in the cotton re- 
gion and feeds upon the worst enemies of the plant. 

The sphinx caterpillars, so many of which are injurious to culti- 
vated plants, were eaten by 20 redbirds. The species identified are 
the laurel sphinx {Sphinx kalmice) and the purslane sphinx (Deile- 
phila lineata,) fig. 38), the latter being a general feeder and attacking 
« Fourth Ann. Rep. U. S. Ent. Coinni. 1SS5, p. 88. 
18848— BulL 32—08 2 ' 



several garden and field crops. Measuring worms were eaten by 2 

cardinals, the ze- 
bra caterpillar 
(fig. 10) of the 
cabbage by 1, 
while 2 secured 
chrysalides of the 
notorious codling 
moth. It thus ap- 
pears that the 
lepidopterous food 
of this grosbeak 
contains a number 
of serious pests, 
and the bird ac- 
complishes much 
good by destroy- 
ing them. 

A somewhat 
larger number of 
cardinals than ate 
caterpillars preyed 
upon grasshop- 
pers, and these in- 
sects form a corre- 
spondingly larger 


-Bollworm or corn-ear worm (Heliothis obsoleta). 
(From Quaintance, Bureau of Entomology.) 

proportion of the 
food, namely 6.43 
percent. Crickets and long and short horned locusts were eaten and 
a decided taste for the eggs of katydids is 
shown, they being consumed by 21 red- 
birds. Among the short-horned grasshop- 
pers the small shield-back grouse locusts 
were taken, and also the lesser migratory 
locusts (Melanoplus atlanis, fig. 39), 
which during the invasions of the Rocky 
Mountain grasshopper was second only 
in importance to that formidable insect. 
The cardinal did its share in repelling 
the locust hosts in the seventies, Mr. 
Aughey, of Nebraska, finding more than 
20 locusts per bird during his examina- 
tions. It is certain that the redbird's aid 
in restricting the less conspicuous pests 
of the present day is no less valuable. 

Other insects bearing the name " locusts," but not at all closely 


Fig. 9. — Cotton cutworm (Prodenia 
ornithogalli). (From Chittenden, 
Bureau of Entomology.) 



related to the grasshoppers, belong to the order Hemiptera, which 
furnishes 3.72 percent of the cardinal's subsistence. These dogday 
locusts, harvest or jarflies, which injure the twigs of trees, are, on 
account of their loud, vibrating song, among the best-known insects. 

Fig. 10. — Zebra caterpillar (Mamestra picta) . (From Chittenden, Bureau of Entomology.) 

Their great size would seem to prevent most birds from capturing 
them, but 9 of the redbirds examined had accomplished the feat. 
The common harvest fly (Cicada tibicen, fig. 11) was identified from 

Fig. 11. — Harvest fly {Cicada tibicen). (From Lug; 

Minnesota Experiment Station.) 

tAvo stomachs, and according to A. AY. Butler a the seventeen-year 
locust (Tibicen septendecim) also is eaten by the redbird. 

Several insects of this order are miniatures of the cicadas, such as 
the jumping plant-lice (Psyllida?) and leaf-hoppers (Tettigonidse). 

°Bull. 12, Div. Ent, 1886, p. 30. 


These and the curiously shaped tree-hoppers (Membracidse), all of 
which are more or less injurious, are occasionally taken by the red- 
bird. More often this grosbeak secures the tiny bark-lice or scale 
insects (Coccidae). These minute but nevertheless destructive pests, 
which have not long been known to be preyed upon to any extent by 
birds, were devoured by 21 cardinals. The cherry scale (Eulecanium 
cerasifex), which is sometimes injurious, was identified from one 
stomach, while another contained scales which are probably the locust 
bark-scale (E. robiniarum). Other scale insects of the same genus 
were fed upon by 15 cardinals and those of a related genus 
(Tourney ella) of the southeastern United States by 2. 

Other Hemiptera were eaten \>y 59 grosbeaks, 31 selecting the vile- 
smelling stinkbugs (Pentatomidse), including the green tree-bug 
(Nezara hilaris) and 1 specimen of Euschistus. The secretions of 
the latter insect have proved fatal to such hardy creatures even as 
weevils, but apparently they do not daunt the cardinal. One assassin 
bug and 1 species of the chinch-bug family also were devoured. 
Practically all of the Hemiptera eaten are injurious, and some, such 
as the scale insects, extremely so. Consequently, the cardinal's habit 
of preying upon them is highly beneficial. 

Passing to beetles, Ave find weevils are eaten to a greater extent than 
any others. These compactly formed snout-bearers belong to 10 fam- 
ilies, members of 3 of which are preyed upon by the cardinal. Most 
of the weevils attack nuts, fruits, and seeds, including those of culti- 
vated plants. Hence, they are generally harmful and many kinds are 
exceptionally destructive. Weevils often are obscurely colored and 
have the habit of feigning death, but notwithstanding these protec- 
tive devices they are captured in large numbers by all insectivorous 
birds. One hundred and fifty-seven cardinals ate weevils in quan- 
tity sufficient to make 3.26 percent of the food of all examined. 
Scarred snout-beetles and curculios are equally relished. Sixteen red- 
birds fed upon a species (Compsus auricephalus) of the former 
group, which, in the adult state, occurs upon the leaves of cotton. 
The tiniest fragment of this insect suffices for identification, because 
of the beautiful covering of silvery green and golden scales. Thir- 
teen other grosbeaks ate scarred snout -beetles which can not be identi- 
fied. Of curculios, the acorn weevil (Balaninus nasicus), with a 
snout almost as long as the body, and several species of 5 weed-mining 
genera were captured. Six redbirds ate the injurious clover weevils 
(Sitones). The cotton boll w T eevil (fig. 19) also is occasionally eaten 
by the cardinal, 2 of the present collection having secured specimens 
of this highly destructive insect. Twelve redbirds captured curcu- 
lios which were not further determined. Bill-bugs (fig. 12), which 
as larva? live in the roots of grasses or sedges and as adults often in- 
jure corn by drilling holes in the stems of young plants, were de- 



Fig. 12.— A bill bug (Spheno- 
phorus). (From Forbes, Illi- 
nois Experiment Station.) 

vonred by 13 cardinals. Two species (Sphenophorus cariosus and 

S. compressirostris) were identified. 

Lamellicorn or scarabseid beetles are 

next in importance to weevils in the beetle 

diet of the cardinal. They were eaten by 

77 birds and compose 2.56 percent of the 

annual food. Many of them feed on ex- 

crementitious matter and are of neutral 

economic significance : but few of these are 

consumed by the bird. Those secured in- 
clude the common road-frequenting dung 

beetles, which were captured by 6 cardi- 
nals, and the large resplendant scavenger 

Phanceus carnifex. 

Other species in this family, however, 

are not so harmless as the above. The 

spotted vine-chafer (Pelidnota punctata), 

which is an important grape pest in the 

eastern United States, the two-spotted 

Anomala, which also devours the foliage 

of the grape, and the cetonias {Euphoria 

inda, fig. 15 ; E. fulgida, et al.), which feed 

upon all sorts of flowers and sometimes on young Indian corn, are all 

accepted as food by the cardinal. The southern June beetle or figeater 

(Allorhina nitida, fig. 
13), which causes con- 
siderable damage in 
Florida and neighbor- 
ing States, was found in 
a few stomachs; but 
since the cardinal 
evinces a strong prefer- 
ence for large insects 
and abounds in this 
beetle's favorite home, 
many of them, no doubt, 
are devoured. Of great- 
est interest in this fam- 
ily are the rose-chafers 
(Macrodactylus subspi- 
n osis, fig. 14. ) These bee- 
tles are so abundant at 
ruin not only vineyards, 

but orchards and gardens, eating every kind of fruit and flower; 

Fig. 13. — Figeater (Allorhina nitida). (From Howard. 
Bureau of Entomology.) 

times, says Prof. J. B. Smith, that thev " 



two or three days suffice to ruin a vineyard. '' These insects have 
very long and spiny legs, and opinions differ as to whether birds 
eat them, some affirming that they do, others that they do not. As a 
matter of fact, they are preyed upon by several wild birds, including 
the yellow -billed cuckoo, crow blackbird, kingbird, phoebe, green- 

Fig. 14. — Rose beetle (Macrodactylus subspinosus) . (From Riley, Bureau of Entomology.) 

crested flycatcher, redheaded woodpecker, and cardinal, the last- 
named being one of the most important of their enemies. Four of 
the birds examined during the present investigation had eaten rose- 
beetles, each of them taking several, and on July 5, 1906, the writer 
watched a brood of young which were being fed rose-chafers, remains 

Fig. 15. 

-Flower eating scarabseid (Euphoria inda). 

(From Chittenden, Bureau of 

of 17 being recovered from ejecta. These facts indicate that the 
cardinal is so fond of the rose-beetle as to capture it whenever 
possible. This habit of the bird, together with its inroads upon the 
vine-chafers of the family, are of considerable economic importance. 
Next in importance among beetles in the diet of the cardinal 
grosbeak are the bronzy wood-borers (Buprestidse), which compose 



1.17 percent of the subsistence, being eaten by 31 birds. In the larval 
state these beetles excavate tunnels in trees and do immense damage. 
Two species were identified in stomachs of the redbird, namely, the 
locust borer (Agrilus egenus) and another (Dicerca obscura) which 
bores into various deciduous trees. The beetles of this family seem 
to be a regular item of diet of all kinds of grosbeaks, and we may be 
sure that their destruction is highly beneficial. 

The rather similar appearing click-beetles, adults of the disastrous 
wireworms, were secured by 23 redbirds. Twelve birds ate long- 
horned borers (Cerambycidse), 2 species being identified, neither of 
which is an important pest. However, the entire family is injurious, 
and the cardinal should be commended for diminishing the numbers 
of any of the species. 

The closely related family of leaf -beetles (Chrysomelida?) does not 
furnish a large percentage of the redbird's fare, although several of 
its species are 
captured. The 
notorious spotted 
cucumber - beetle 
(Diabrotica 12- 
punctata,fi.g. 26), 
the strawberry 
root - borer (Co- 
laspis brunnea) . 
plum leaf - beetle 
{Nodonota tris- 
tis), sweet potato 
leaf -beetle (Cop- 
tocycla), willow 
and poplar species (Chrysomela big shy ana and Melasoma scripta), 
besides some others that feed on weeds and other wild plants, are occa- 
sionally eaten. Two additional species, the locust leaf -miner and the 
three-lined potato beetle, deserve more extended notice. Concerning 
the locust leaf-mining beetle (Odontota dorsalis, fig. 16), Dr. S. D. 
Judd says, in " Birds of a Maryland Farm : " a 

In the summer of 1895 a destructive outbreak * * * turned all the 
locusts of the farm as brown as if they had been scorched by fire, ruining the 
verdure of the river bluff. * * * From 1896 to 1902, inclusive, the beetles 
did not again ruin the foliage. * * * In 1896 the trees further up the river, 
however, were turned brown, showing that the escape of those at Marshall Hall 
was not due to climatic conditions unfavorable to the insects ; therefore it is 
possible that the birds were at least to some extent responsible for it. 

Fig. 16. 

-Locust leaf-miner (Odontota dorsalis). 
tenden. Bureau of Entomology.) 

(From Chit- 

a Bull. 17, Biological Survey, 1902, pp. 29-30. 


The cardinal is one of the birds which assisted in checking this 
infestation. Two individuals taken at the time had eaten leaf- 
miners, one having secured no fewer than 10. 

Before the advent of the Colorado beetle, a smaller leaf-beetle 
(Lema trilineata), which naturally feeds on ground cherries (Phy- 
salis), turned its attention to potatoes and made itself widely known. 
Even at present it is by no means harmless in the Southern States. 
It is encouraging, therefore, to know that the cardinal seems to relish 
the species, one bird collected in Florida having eaten 14 of them. 
The cardinal has been reported to feed upon the genuine potato 
beetle also, by E. B. Williamson a and F. H. Chittenden.* Thus while 
not preying extensively upon the Chrysomelidse, the redbird at times 
renders valuable service by eating some of the pests so numerous in 
the family. 

The cardinal occasionally captures a few other kinds of beetles, 
such as the darkling beetles (Tenebrionidaa) noted for their nauseous 
secretions, and the blister beetles (Meloidse), the fluids of whose 
bodies are highly vesicatory. 

But few additional insects are consumed. One cardinal had eaten 
a two-winged fly, a member of an order the individuals of which are 
perhaps more abundant than those of any other, yet which is surpris- 
ingly exempt from the attacks of birds. Three redbirds devoured 
fragile mayflies of the kinds that often swarm about the lights of 
cities. They sometimes eat the larger kinds also, as was observed by 
Dr. A. K. Fisher, July 4, 1906, when a male cardinal was seen carry- 
ing in its beak one of the large dark mayflies {Hexagenia bilineata). 

Belonging, together with the insects, to the subkingdom of the 
jointed animals (Arthropoda) are the spiders and centipedes, which 
in a small way contribute to the fare of the cardinal. One bird had 
eaten a centipede, while 22 obtained spiders or their egg sacs. 

Snails and other mollusks were eaten by a great many of the 
birds examined, namely 112. Whether they were taken for grinding 
material or for food is a question, but the latter seems more likely 
in view of the large number devoured. One grosbeak had eaten 
several small bivalve shells which must have been obtained from 
water, and another secured a large slug. 

The following note by D. E. Lantz shows that occasionally verte- 
brates serve as food. 

December 27 [1884], while hunting, I saw a male cardinal grosbeak eating 
a field-mouse. Several others attempted to take it from him; but were unsuc- 
cessful. At my approach they left it lying on the snow. It was about half 

«Proc. Columbus Hort. Soc, XIII, 1898, p. 42. 
6 Circular 87, Bureau of Entomology, 1907, p. 12. 
c O and O., X, 1885, p. 29. 


Mineral Matter. 

Mineral matter taken for grinding purposes, among which were 
many bits of cinder in addition to the usual quartz fragments and 
sand, averaged 5.7 percent of the gross contents of the stomachs 


The nestlings of the cardinal, in common with those of most birds, 
are highly insectivorous. During the preparation of this report 4 
have been examined, with the result that 94.75 percent of their food 
was found to be animal matter and 5.25 vegetable. Two of the num- 
ber were young, just out of the nest, and they had consumed the 
vegetable substances; 2 were nestlijags, and their diet was en- 
tirely animal. The stomach of one of the latter contained the 
thorax of a large cicada, and that of the other the remaining por- 
tions of that luckless insect. Both had been fed caterpillars — 
purslane (fig. 38) and laurel sphinxes — and each, contained grass- 
hoppers and spiders. A few larva? and eggs of other insects also 
were in their stomachs. One of the young, just out of the nest, had 
been given a cicada, and, in addition, some 9 grasshoppers, a snail, 
and a few seeds, while the other had eaten lamellicorn beetles, weevils, 
and blackberry seeds. The proportions of the principal food items 
of the four nestlings are as follows: Cicadas, 17.25 percent; grass- 
hoppers, 20 ; caterpillars, 21.25 ; and beetles, 23.25. Two other fledge- 
lings in the collection had only a few bits of snail in their stomachs. 

Observations upon nestling birds in the field being recognized as 
valuable in supplementing data obtained from the examination of 
stomachs, an effort was made throughout the season of 1906 to locate 
and thoroughly study a grosbeak family. Owing to various vicissi- 
tudes, satisfactory observations were made upon only one nest. Fifty- 
six trips by the parents were made to this nest in six and one-half 
hours, an average of 8.6 an hour. The young were fed 178 times, an 
average of 89 each. The longest interval between visits was thirty- 
five minutes, the shortest two. 

The character of the food could not be determined by observation, 
but it was learned in another way. None of the excrement was re- 
moved from the box, whereas the nest in which the youngsters had 
been reared was kept perfectly clean. The fecal matter was dried and 
examined, and while by no means all of its constituents could be 
identified, enough was learned to indicate that the study of excreta is 
a very satisfactory method of determining the food of nestling birds. 
The nest of any fairly bold bird may be kept under surveillance and 
the waste matter collected before the parents remove it. The extent 
of the information as to the food eaten by the young to be obtained in 
this way is astonishing. 


For instance, a single easting of a young cardinal, covered with 
its thick, chalky, and gelatinous layers, was preserved, and from it 
were taken the following : One insect egg, the leg and scutellurn of a 
scarabseid beetle, head and other remains of a leaf -hopper, bits of a 
snail, and 11 seeds and the core of a mulberry. From the remainder 
of the total quantity the following were identified: Seventeen rose- 
beetles (M acrodactylus subspinosus, fig. 14), 2 other scarabseids, 1 
click beetle (Limonius sp.), 1 caterpillar hunter (Calosoma scru- 
tator, fig. T), 1 leaf-hopper (Jassidse), 3 grasshoppers, 1 spider, 1 
dragon fly, many bits of snail, IT blackberry seeds (Rubus sp.), and 
221 seeds of mulberry {Moi^us rubra). The only beneficial species in 
the above list is the caterpillar hunter, while among the injurious 
forms, four in number, the rose-beetle is very important. This in- 
sect's habits, as well as its occasional overwhelming abundance, have 
been described on a preceding page. 

The infestation of the insect about the District of Columbia in 1906 
was especially severe. Not only roses were attacked by the insects, 
but elder blossoms were covered, and around the basswoods their 
humming was as loud as of a swarm of bees. Frequent attempts were 
made to discover whether the cardinal feeds upon them, but no oppor- 
tunity was afforded until the above-mentioned nestlings were discov- 
ered at the extreme end of the rose-beetle season. The fact that so 
many were taken at that time is good evidence that special search 
was made for them. 

Among the food given to the inmates of a nest under observation in 
1907, the following were identified by sight : A chrysalis, a caterpillar 
or sawfly larvae, a horsefly, and a grasshopper. From a small quan- 
tity of excrement were recovered bits of snail, grass seed, a small 
caterpillar, ground and click beetles, and 3 rose-beetles. The cap- 
ture of the latter is again significant, as they were very scarce up to 
that time. This fondness for rose-beetles distinguishes the bird as 
an important guardian of the plants the insects attacks. 


Examination of nearly 500 stomachs of cardinals shows that the 
bird's diet is about three-tenths animal and seven-tenths vegetable. 

The cardinal has been accused of pilfering certain grains, notably 
corn, to an injurious extent, which charge the evidence from stomach 
examination neither proves nor disproves. But in view of the fact 
that only 8.73 percent of the total food is grain, and that more than 
half of that amount is waste, the loss is greatly overbalanced by the 
destruction of weed seeds alone, which compose Inore than half of the 
vegetable food. Moreover, some of the weeds consumed are espe- 
cially destructive to grain crops. 

In securing its insect food the cardinal injures us in 1 case and 
benefits us in 15. In other words, considering the animal food alone, 



only 1 cardinal does harm to 15 which do good. The presence of this 
single harmful bird among so many beneficial ones no more justifies 
us in classing the species as injurious than would a like proportion 
of disabled men justify the condemnation of a whole regiment. 

On the contrary, since the cardinal, by its general food habits, 
does at least 15 times more good than harm, it must be classed among 
the very useful species. The following list of important pests the 
bird has been shown to prey upon is in itself sufficient proof of the 
cardinal's value. The list includes the Rocky Mountain locust, 17- 
year cicada, potato beetle, cotton worm, bollworm, cotton cutworm, 
cotton-boll weevil, codling moth, rose-beetle, cucumber-beetle, fig- 
eater, zebra caterpillar, plum scale, and other scale insects. A host 
of minor insect pests are attacked and the seeds of many noxious 
weeds are destroyed. The cardinal much more than pays its way, 
and deserves and should receive strictest protection. The bird is 
easily attracted by food in winter and by the provision of suitable 
nesting sites in summer. Being thus responsive to human care, and 
being so valuable economically, the cardinal's presence on the farm, 
and even in the city garden, should be encouraged in every possible 
way. With proper protection and encouragement it will become 
more and more numerous and render husbandry a correspondingly 
increased amount of useful service. 


Corn (Zea mays). 

Rice (Oryza sativa). 

Kafir corn (Sor-ghum vulgare durra). 

Oats (Arena sativa.) 
Wheat (Triticum vulgare). 

wild fruits. 

Red cedar (Juniperus rirginiana). 
Solomon's seal (Pologonatum bi- 

Bristly Greenbrier (Smilax bona-nox). 
Hickory (Hicoria sp.). 
Oak (Quercus sp.). 
Southern hackberry (Celtis mississip- 

piensis ) . 
Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis). 
Mulberry (Morus sp.). 
Pokeberry ( PJi yiola cea deea n dra ) . 
Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera). 
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin). 
Blackberry (Rubus sp.). 
Rose (Rosa sp.). 

Jnneberry (Amelanchier canadensis). 
Red haw (Crataegus sp.). 
Cherry (Primus sp.). 

Skunk bush (Rhus trilobata). 
Poison ivy (Rhus radicals). 
Holly (Ilex opaca). 
Inkberry (Ilex glabra). 
Maple (Acer sp.). 
Summer grape (Vitis aestivalis). 
Frost grape (Vitis eordifolia). 
Bullace grape (Vitis rotundifolia). 
Maypop (Passiflora incarnata). 
Prickly pear (Opuntia opuntia). 
Rough-leaved cornel (Corn us asperir 

Flowering dogwood (Comas florida) . 
Blueberry (Vacciniuin virgatuni). 
Knockaway tree (Ehretia elliptica). 
Nightshade (Solanum sp.). 
Elder (Sambucus sp.). 
Arrowwood {Viburnum sp.). 




Large crab grass {Syniherisma sun- 

Barnyard grass (Echinochloa crus- 

Yellow foxtail (Ghcetochloa glauca). 
Bur grass (Cenchrus tribuloides). 
Wire grass (Eleusine indica). 
Sedge {Car ex sp.). 
Spiderwort (Tradescantia sp.). 
Rush {J uncus sp.). 
Star grass (Hypoxis hirsuta). 
Star grass (Hypoxis juncea). 
Dock (Rumex sp.). 
Knotgrass (Polygonum aviculare) . 
Pale persicaria {Polygonum lapathi- 

Pennsylvania persicaria (Polygonum 

pennsylvanicum) . 
Smartweed (Polygonum punctatum). 
Virginia knotweed (Polygonum virgiii- 

ianum ) . 
Hastate tearthumb (Polygonum arifo- 

lium ) . 

Goosefoot (Chcnopodium sp.). 
Pigweed (Amaranthus sp.). 
Chickweed (Alsiuc media). 
Vetch (Vicia sp.). 
Cranesbill (Geranium sp.). 
Sorrel (Oxalis sp.). 
Croton (Croton sp.). 
Spurge (Euphorbia sp.). 
Spiny sida (Sida spinosa). 
Violet (Viola sp.). 
Dodder (Cuscuta sp.). 
Stickweed (Lappula sp.). 
Gromwell (Lithospermum arvense). 
White vervain (Verbena urticaefolia). 
Blue vervain (Verbena hastata). 
Rib grass (Plantago lanceolata). 
Plantain (Plantago 1 sp.) . 
Buttonweed (Diodia teres). 
Prickly sow-thistle- (Sonchus asper). 
Ragweed (Ambrosia artcmisiaefolia), 
Sunflower (Helianthus sp.). 
Sticktight (Bidens sp.). 


Ground beetles (Carabidse) : 

Calosoma scrutator. 

Pasimachus sp. 

Scarites subterraneus. 

Dicaelus sp. 

Callida sp. 

Harpalus caliginosus. 

Anisodactylus rusticus. 

Anisodactylus agricola. 
Click-beetles (Elaterida?) : 

Melanotus sp. 
Bronzy wood-borers (Buprestidse) : 

Dicerca obscura. 

Agrilus egenus. 
Fireflies (Larnpyridse) : 

Chauliogna'th us marginatus. 

Telephorus pusillus. 
Lamellicorn beetles (Scarabseidse) 

Plianaeus camifex. 

Aphodius lividus. 

Aphodius inquinatus. 

Macrodactylus subspinosus. 

Anomala binotata luteipennis. 

Pelidnota punctata. 

Allorhina nitida. 

Euphoria fulgida. 

Euphoria in da. 

Long-horned beetles (Ceranibycidae) : 

Liopus adspersus. 

Hippopsis lemniscata. 
Leaf -beetles (Chrysoinelidse) : 

Donacia sp. 

Lema trilineata. 

Cryptocephalus calidus. 

Colaspis brunnea. 

Nodonota tristis. 

Chrysomela sp. 

Galligrapha bigsbyana. 

Zygogramma heterotheca. 

Melasoma scripta. 

Diabrotica 12-punctata. 

Odontota dorsalis. 

Coptocycla sp. 
Darkling beetles (Tenebrionidse) : 

Blapstinus pratensis. 
Blister beetles (Meloidse). 
Scarred snout-beetles (Otiorhynchi- 

dse) : 

Graphorhinus vadosus. 

Compsus auriceph a I us. 
True snout-beetles (Curculionidre) : 

Sitones sp. 

Pachyty chius amcenus. 

Anthonomus grandis. 



coleoptera — continued. 

True snout-beetles — Continued. 

Conotrachelus sp. 

Tyloderma baridium. 

Bar is inter stitialis. 

Balaninus nasicus. 
Billbugs (Calandridae) : 

Rhodobaenus 13-punctatus. 

Cicadas (Cicadidae) : 

Cicada tibicen. 
Tree-hoppers ( Membracidae ) . 
Leaf-hoppers (Tettigonidoe). 
Jumping plant-lice (Psyllidae). 
Scale insects (Coccidae) : 

Eulecaniam cerasifex. 

Eulecanium robiniarum- (?). 

Billbugs — Continued. 

Sphenophorus cariosus. 

Splienophorits compressirostris. 
Barkbeetles (Scolytidae) : 

Tomcius impressus. 


Scale insects — Continued. 

Toumcyella sp. 
Stink-bugs (Pentatomidse) : 

Euschistus sp. 

Nezara hilaris. 
Assassin bugs (Reduviidae). 


Short-horned grasshoppers (Acridii- Long-horned grasshoppers (Locusti 

dae) : 
Melanoplus atlanis. 
Tettix sp. 

Hawk-inoths (Sphingidae) : 

Deilephila lineata. 

Sphinx kalmitt. 
Owlet-moths (Noctuidae) : 

Mamestra picta. 

Prodenia ornithogalli. 

Alabama argillacea. 


Crickets (Gryllidae). 


Owlet moths — Continued. 

Heliothis obsoleta. 
Spanworms (Geometrida?) 

Nadata gibbosa. 
Leaf-rollers ( Tortr icidse ) : 

Carpocapsa pomonella. 


Bough-headed ants (Myrmieidae) : 

Pogonomyrmex sp. 
Smooth-headed ants (Formicidae) : 
Lasius sp. 

Sawflies ( Tenthredinidae ) 


Dragon fly (Odonata). 
Mantispa brunnea (Neuroptera) 

Two-winged fly (Diptera), 
Mayfly ( Ephemerida ) . 


Spiders ( Araneida ) . 
Centipedes ( Chilopoda ) . 

Snails and slugs (Gastropoda). 
Bivalves (Pelecypoda). 


(Pyrrhuloacia sinuata. Plate I, Frontispiece.) 

This grosbeak, which so far has received no distinctive popular 
name, may be known as the gray grosbeak or parrot-bill. It is almost 
the same size as the cardinal, closely resembles that species in song 
and general demeanor, and has similar nesting habits. Moreover, 
it frequents the same kind of country and is resident wherever found. 
In appearance, however, it is quite dissimilar. 

In strong contrast to the glowing hue of the cardinal, the general 
color of both sexes of the parrot-bill is light gray. The wings, tail, 
and long crest are suffused with dark red and the wings are lined 
with rose. This color also surrounds the beak of the male and ex- 
tends over throat and breast in an irregular patch. The beak is 
yellowish and is very curiously modified, being short, thick, strongly 
curved, and apparently of great power. 

The gray grosbeak occurs over about the lower third of Arizona 
and New Mexico and the lower half of Texas, not reaching, however, 
the extreme eastern part of the latter State. There are two sub- 
species, the Arizona parrot-bill (P. sinuata) and the Texas parrot- 
bill (P. s. texana). Their range extends south to central Mexico. 


Seventy-four stomachs of gray grosbeaks have been examined. 
All are from Texas, 59 being collected in August and 15 in Septem- 
ber. They do not, therefore, give an adequate idea of the food habits 
of the species, except for that locality and season. Vegetable mat- 
ter averages 71.19 percent of the contents, and animal matter 28.81 
percent. Contrasting the latter amount Avith 36.54 percent of ani- 
mal food obtained during a corresponding period by the cardi- 
nal, which is highly vegetarian, it appears exceedingly low. • It is 
accounted for, however, by the extraordinary preference of the 
parrot-bill for a single item of its vegetable diet, namely, the seeds 
of grasses. 

Vegetable Food. 

Another remarkable feature of the vegetable diet is the scarcity 
of fruit. Only a few pokeberries were eaten, not enough in fact to 
be allotted a percentage valuation. Cardinals, however, collected in 
the same locality at the same time consumed almost 12 percent of 
fruit in August and nearly 30 percent in September. It appears, 
therefore, that the gray grosbeak is distinguished from its nearest 
relative by a remarkable indifference for fruit. 




Grass seeds constitute an average of 53.09 percent of the total food 
of the birds examined, or more than five-sevenths of the vegetable 
food alone. Most important among them are foxtail (Chcetocholoa, 
fig. 17) and bur grass (Cenchrus, Plate II, fig. 10), which together 
amount to 43.59 percent of all the bird's food. Since these grasses 
are among the most pernicious weeds, the 
parrot-bill is more than welcome to all of 
their seeds it desires. 

The seeds of other grasses also are im- 
portant, furnishing 9.51 percent of the 
bird's subsistence. Among them are seeds 
of witch and crab grasses, most species of 
which are weeds. Yard or wire grass 
{Eleusine indica) also is eaten. Seeds of a 
spurge {Croton sp.) contribute 9.81 percent 

to this grosbeak's fare, and other weeds, in- 

Fig. 17. — Seeds of yellow fox- 
tail (Chwtochloa glauca). 
(From Hillman, Nevada Ex- 
periment Station.) 

eluding bindweed (fig. 21), lambs' quarters, 

tumbleweed (fig. 18), sunflower, carpet weed, nightshade, vervain 

(fig. 3), mallow, etc., compose 6.13 percent. 

Thus the gray grosbeak is a great consumer of weed seeds, and it is 
remarkable that seeds form practically seven-tenths of the food in 
August and September, when insects are superabundant. The bird's 
habit of feeding upon weeds is undoubtedly beneficial, especially be- 
cause it eats so many seeds of foxtail and bur grass, pests with which 
every farmer in the South has to contend. 


The only grain found in stomachs of this species is sorghum. Six 
birds had eaten it in quantity sufficient to make an average of 2.03 
percent of the total food. Ignoring even the fact that sorghum is 

• d 

Fig. 18. 

-Seeds of rough tumbleweed (Amaranth us retroflexus) . 
Experiment Station. ) 

• • 

(From Hillman, Nevad? 

usually grown for fodder, not for grain, the amount consumed is so 
small that there need be no fear of damage by this shy and uncom- 
mon bird. 

Animal Food. 

While the parrot-bill consumes a smaller proportion of animal 
matter than other grosbeaks, it selects about the same things, the 
principal items being grasshoppers, caterpillars, and beetles. . 



Neither parasitic Hymenoptera nor predaceous beetles were found 
in the stomachs examined, a showing much to the bird's credit. Only 
one useful insect had been eaten, it belonging to the queer neurop- 
teroid genus Mantispa, the members of which are rare. They are 
predaceous when adult and when young are parasitic in the egg-sacs 
of spiders. 

The remainder of the animal food is composed of injurious species, 
among which are important pests. Beetles constitute 4.6G percent 
of the food, weevils alone being 3.42. Of greatest interest among the 
latter is the cotton-boll weevil (Anthonomus grandis, fig. 19), the 
most serious agricultural pest of recent years. While the gray gros- 
beak does not feed upon it regularly, nevertheless the habit of picking- 
it up when occasion offers is highly commendable. Among other 
weevils eaten are additional species of curculionids and scarred snout- 
beetles, including the same silvery-green and golden species (Comp- 

___________ _ ___ ________ s u s auricephalus) 

r~~ eaten by the Cardi- 

ff, _T _#^v n- nal. 

Leaf beetles 
probably are next 
in importance. The 
parrot-bill is sharp- 
eyed enough to find 
a species (Chlamys 
plicata) of this 
family that is noted 
for the perfection 
of its protective de- 
vices. This little 
beetle is curiously sculptured and has furrows in which all the appen- 
dages fold, and, being bronzy in color, its resemblance to the drop- 
pings of caterpillars is almost perfect. The Chlamys sometimes feeds 
upon raspberry leaves, but has never been found very injurious. 
Nevertheless, it is entirely vegetarian, like all the other beetles of 
the family, species of which, even if not at present positively injuri- 
ous, are liable to become so at any time. The parrot-bill should re- 
ceive nothing but praise for its destruction of leaf-beetles. 

Bronzy wood-borers (Buprestidse) and long-horned beetles 
(Cerambycidse), both of which are destructive to forest and orchard 
trees, also were found in stomachs of this species. 

Beetles, as a whole, are exceeded in amount by caterpillars, the 
latter constituting 10.32 percent of the diet. One of the species 
identified, namely, the cotton worm {Alabama argillacea, fig. 20), 
has long been known as a great pest throughout the Southern States. 

Fig. 19. — Cotton-boll weevil {Anthonomus grandis). 
Howard, Bureau of Entomology.) 




and In certain years has caused a decrease in the crop of a quarter of 
a million bales, valued at $25,000,000. Many birds devour great 
numbers of cotton worms, and this fact alone justifies the oft-repeated 
statement that " too much can hardly be said in favor of insectivorous 
birds in cotton fields." The gray grosbeak assumes a proper share in 
this valuable work, 14 of the 71 individuals examined having con- 
sumed cotton worms, which formed an average of 39.1 percent of 
their food. As many as 18 caterpillars were found in a single 
stomach. Another caterpillar enemy of 
the same ,crop, the cotton cutworm (Pro- 
denia ornithogalli, fig. 9), also is freely 

As beetles were less esteemed than cater- 
pillars by the gray grosbeak, so also are 
the latter less liked than the Orthoptera. 
This group contributes 11.52 percent of the 
total food. Both long and short-horned 
locusts and their eggs are devoured, 7 or 8 
grasshoppers sometimes being secured by a 
single bird. The only species (Syrbula 
admirabilis) identified sometimes feeds on 

True bugs, comprising stink-bugs (Pen- 
tatomidae) and their eggs, cicadas, leaf- 
hoppers (Jassida?), and lantern flies (Ful- 
goridse) compose about 1.5 percent of the 
food. All of these insects are injurious 
and the bird does a service by feeding 
upon them. 

One parrot-bill was bold enough to 
swallow a large hornet (Vespa sp.). A 
few ants also were eaten, and these, together with spiders and snails, 
complete the list of animals devoured. Although this grosbeak is not 
conspicuously insectivorous, almost all the insects it eats are injurious. 

Mineral Matter. 

While mineral matter was absent from the majority of the stomachs 
examined, enough was contained in the remainder to make an aver- 
age of 3.62 percent for the whole number. 


The present -incomplete data indicate that for a grosbeak the par- 
rot bill is decidedly vegetarian, preferring vegetable food even in 
months when insects abound. More than 69 percent of its food 
during August and September consists of weed seeds, the small 

18848— Bull. 32—08 3 


Pig. 20. — Cotton ' worm (Ala- 
bama argillacea). (From 
Riley, Bureau 

of Entomol- 



amount of grain taken bringing the total amount of vegetable food 
up to 71.19 percent. More than half of the total subsistence con- 
sists of grass seeds alone. 

The 28.81 percent of animal food is made up almost exclusively of 
harmful species, among which are the most important pests of the 
cotton plant, namely, the cotton worm and the cotton boll weevil. 

Although the data on hand are insufficient to determine the exact 
economic status of the bird, it may be stated with confidence that 
the gray grosbeak is almost entirely beneficial. 



Kafir corn {Sorghum vulgar -c durra). 

Joint grass (Paspalum sp.). 
Crab grass (Syntherisma sp.). 
Yellow foxtail (Chcetochloa glauca). 
Bur grass (Cenchrus tribuloides) . 
Wire grass (Eleusine indica). 
Bindweed (Polygonum sp.). 
Goosefoot (Chenopodium sp.). 
Rough pigweed (Amaranthus retro- 
flex us ) . 
Pokeweed (Phytolacca decandra). 

Carpetweed (Mollugo verticillata) 

Sorrel (Oxalis sp.). 

Spurge (Euphorbia sp.). 

Croton (Croton sp.). 

Mallow (Malva sp.). 

Sida sp. 

Vervain (Verbena sp.). 

Nightshade (Solarium sp.). 

Sunflower (Helianthus sp.). 


Bronzy wood-borers (Buprestidse). 
Long-horned beetles (Ceranibycidae) 

Liopus crassulus. 

Hippopsis lemniscata. 
Leaf-beetles (Chrysomelidse) : 

Chlamys plicata. 

Scarred snout - beetles (Otiorhyn- 
chidse) : 

Gompsus auricephalus. 
True snout-beetles (Curculionidae) : 

Anthonomus grandis. 

Acalles sp. 


Cicadas (Cicadidse) : 
Cicada sp. 

Leaf-hoppers ( Jassidse ) . 
Lantern flies ( Fulgoridse ) . 


Short-horned grasshoppers (Acridii- 

dse) : 
Syrbula admirabilis. 

Long-horned grasshoppers (Locusti- 


Owlet-moths (Noctuidae) : 
Prodenia ornithogalli. 
Alabama argillacea. 

Hornets (Vespidse) : 
Yespa sp. 



Sinooth-neaded ants (Forniicidse). 


Mantispidse: Mantispa sp. 


Spiders (Araneida). j Snails (Gastropoda). 

(Zamelodia ludovidana, Plate III.) 


The rose-breastecl grosbeak, one of the loveliest and most valuable 
of our Xorth American birds, is easily recognized by its characteristic 
coloring and big bill. The male is gayly clad in rose, white, and 
black, the brightest tint partly covering the breast and lining the 
wings. The female, while soberly clothed in buffy, grayish, and 
brown, can not be mistaken, once the appearance of the species is 
familiar, the plump form and thick bill sufficiently distinguishing her. 

The song of the male rosebreast is as charming as his appearance 
is striking, its notes being among the sweetest and most inspiring of 
the avian chorus. The bird seems never to tire of his music and may 
be heard during the hottest days and even at night. However, he 
is also a paragon of domesticity, taking turn with the female in 
incubating the eggs and later doing yeoman service in feeding the 

The bulky and loosely- fashioned nest is built in June, and 3 or 4 
eggs are laid. The nests are very often placed in orchard trees; 
indeed, where conditions permit, they are almost invariably in the 
vicinity of cultivated lands. 

The birds are fairly common, especially in the northern part of 
their range, but they are not evenly distributed. For instance, in one 
locality, for no obvious reasons, grosbeaks are absent, while in another 
near by several pairs may live. In Wisconsin 7 nests have been 
found in a space of not over 5 acres, and on the brushy banks of a 
little stream in New Jersey 11 pairs nested within a quarter of a 
mile. If these figures held for any considerable area, they would 
indicate that the bird was very abundant, and indeed it would 
appear that in most accounts the number of rose-breasted grosbeaks 
has been underestimated, unless we are to assume that of late years 
the bird has increased in numbers greatly. In parts of Xew England 


during the last twenty years the bird is known to have increased, 
and where once rare it is now common. In western Pennsylvania 
rosebreasts are said to be as common as song sparrows, and E. A. 
Preble, of the Biological Survey, found them in migration one of the 
commonest birds along the Athabaska River, near the northern limit 
of their distribution. 

The rosebreast ranges farther north than any other of the group 
of grosbeaks here treated. Breeding from the latitude of St. Louis 
and northeastern Kansas and in the Alleghenies from southern Ten- 
nessee, it occurs as far north as Newfoundland and Quebec in the east 
and in the west extends through the Dakotas and lower Saskatche- 
wan to Peace River Landing, Alberta, and the vicinity of Fort 
Smith, Mackenzie — the latter locality only 6° from the Arctic Circle. 
In winter the species is found from southern Mexico to below the 
Equator in Ecuador. 


Much interest attaches to the present species because of its well- 
known fondness for the Colorado potato beetle. More than 35 
printed articles of greater or less length have been devoted to the 
bird because of this habit, and brief reports upon it appear in four 
previous publications of the Biological Surrey.' 7 

One hundred and seventy-six stomachs of the rosebreasted gros- 
beak are available for present examination, and these were obtained 
in the seven months from April to November (excepting October), 
from IT States and the District of Columbia, besides Nova Scotia, 
Ontario, and Xorthwest Territory. 

A detailed inventory of the contents of these stomachs having been 
made and the results tabulated, it was found that the bird consumes 
an average of 52 percent of animal matter and 48 percent of vege- 
table per month during its stay in the summer home. The maximum 
amount (74.25 percent) of animal food is taken in June, the nesting 
month. Remarkable features of the food habits are the apparent dis- 
inclination for grasshoppers and the strong preference for wild fruits. 

Vegetable Food. 

The vegetable part of the diet is composed of the following ele- 
ments: Weed seed, 15.74 percent; grain, 5.09 percent; garden peas, 
1.37 percent; wild fruit, 19.3 percent, and other vegetable matter, 
including a small quantity of cultivated fruit, besides buds, flowers 
of trees, etc., 6.5 percent. 

a Barrows, W. B., Rep. Commr. Agr. (1888), 1889, pp. 535-536; Merriam, C. 
Hart, Rep. Commr. Agr., 1889, p. 369 ; Beal, F. E. L., Farmers' Bull. 54, 1897, pp. 
28-30 ; Beal, F. E L., Farmers' Bull. 54 ? rev. ed., 1904, j>p. 34-35. 

Bui. 32. Biological Survey, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture. 

Plate III, 

Black-headed and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. 

[Upper figures, black-headed grosbeaks, male and female; lower figures, rose-breastec 
grosbeaks, female and male.] 


The items obtained from cultivated crops, being of chief interest, 
will be considered first. While it is needless to state that most of 
the testimony regarding the value of this bird is favorable, yet com- 
plaints of injury from it have been made which are verified by stom- 
ach examinations. The crop most frequently attacked by rose- 
breasted grosbeaks is the common garden pea. 

Ten accounts from correspondence and published Avritings go to 
show that this grosbeak sometimes feeds upon peas. Six of them 
refer to damage in Iowa, two in Illinois, one in Massachusetts, and 
one general. Three persons regard the bird as very destructive; 
three, while stating that injury is committed, are less severe in their 
strictures ; while the remaining four, admitting the consumption of a 
few peas, consider the bird's services in preying upon injurious in- 
sects ample compensation for the loss sustained. 

The attacks of this bird upon peas were observed as early as 1839, 
W. B. O. Peabody a writing as follows : 

At the latter part of the summer, our gardens are frequented by the young 
in great numbers, and bitter complaints are made, with or without reason, of 
their depredations on the pens. 

Among more recent charges of injury, that of IT. J. Giddings, of 
Sabula, Iowa, may be cited, both because the amount of damage is 
extreme, and further because the observations are supported in part 
by stomach examination. Mr. Giddings says: 

During the last summer [1892] rosebreasted grosbeaks were unusually 
numerous here. * * * The last two weeks in June and the first week in 
July (after the young had left the nest) they became very destructive, eating 
all kinds of fruit and entirely destroying a small patch of green peas in my 
garden. (Nov. 18, 1892.) 

Six grosbeak stomachs were sent in from this and other gardens 
where the birds had access to peas, but examination disclosed peas 
in only two of them, constituting in one case 10 percent of the 
stomach contents and in the other 80 percent. Peas were found in 
one other stomach also, of the 176 examined, this having been col- 
lected in Minnesota in July. It held 4 peas, which were 80 percent 
of the contents. Were there no other evidence, the above is sufficient 
to show that the rosebreast has a taste for green peas which is some- 
times gratified at the expense of the gardener. 

Some observers believe, however, that the bird makes full repara- 
tion for damage done. E. M. Hancock, of Waukon, Iowa, states: 

The rosebreasted grosbeak has more than made amends for its pea stealing 
by its determined warfare upon the Colorado potato beetle, helping very ma- 
terially to keep down this pest. (April, 1886.) 

, "Birds of Massachusetts, 1839, p. 329. 


Henry Nehrling va writes: 

It is said to eat green peas, and for this reason it is often killed, though the 
damage done in this way does not compare \yith the many benefits it bestows. 

The question is, Do stomach examinations support this view? 
Years ago Prof. F. E. tu. Beal observed the rosebreast in the act of 
eating peas and found the pods cut open and the peas gone ; the con- 
tents of a stomach were examined, and two or three peas, several 
potato beetles, and a tomato worm were found; whence it is evident 
that this particular grosbeak, at least, was paying well for its peas. 

In this connection the record of 6 birds from Iowa gardens is of 
interest. Fifteen percent of their food was peas, and to that extent, 
of course, they were detrimental; but as an offset more than IT per- 
cent consisted of bronzy wood-borers and 12.5 percent of weevils, in- 
cluding the injurious pine bark- weevil and 2 nut weevils. While 
these insects are very injurious to timber, it may be claimed that they 
are not of direct consequence to the gardener. But insects especially 
injurious to garden crops also were consumed, 14.8 percent of the 
food consisting of white grubs, which are enemies of strawberries, 
and a flower beetle, which injures young corn and many fruits, besides 
the notorious Colorado potato beetle. Caterpillars and ants also 
were preyed upon by these 6 birds, and scale insects (Eulecanium 
sp.), the very worst pest of fruit trees, formed 4.5 percent of their 
food. The gardener is vitally concerned in reducing the numbers of 
these insects, and it is evident that the 15 percent of peas consumed 
is paid for many times over b}^ the destruction of more than three 
times that amount of garden and forest enemies. Moreover, to de- 
termine the true significance of the damage done, not only the birds 
which had eaten peas, but the species collectively must be considered. 
The present investigation shows that 3 birds out of 176 had stolen 
peas, while scores had literally feasted upon the worst enemies of 
agriculture. Peas constitute 1.36 percent of the total food of the 
grosbeaks examined, while noxious insects certainly compose thirty 
times as much. Viewed in the light of these facts, the loss sustained 
would be nothing compared to the benefits received were it not for 
the fact that the birds' depredations are often local in character, as 
in the case cited above, one cultivator, perhaps, furnishing the supply 
of peas for all the grosbeaks in the neighborhood. 

However, even under such circumstances a remedy is available 
without the necessity of sacrificing the birds. Wire guards or bird 
netting afford protection, and in the case cited above Professor Beal 
at once stopped the grosbeaks' visits to his pea patch by means of an 
old coat on a pole. 

a Our Native Birds of Song and Beauty, II, 1896, p. 206. 



Grain composes 5.09 percent of the food of the 176 rose-breasted 
grosbeaks examined, the cereals selected being corn, wheat, and oats. 
The bird has been accused of injuring each of these products, and 
stomach examinations lend support to the complaints. 

Com. — Part of the damage to corn is of an unusual nature. H. S. 
Giddings, of Sabula, Iowa, writing about the same grosbeaks men- 
tioned above as injurious to peas, says : 

From the time they arrived until their departure they fed continuously on 
corn from a crib on my place. * * * Sometimes as many as 10, or 12 would 
be in the crib at once. 

The stomachs of 3 grosbeaks shot at this time contained corn, the 
grain constituting in each case about half the contents. Notwith- 
standing these facts, it is very doubtful if any considerable damage 
is ever committed in the manner described, if for no other reason 
than that the opportunity is seldom presented. Moreover, such 
depredations are easily prevented by simple and inexpensive means, 
such as lining the crib with wire netting and closing the doors when 
not in use. These precautions will not only keep out wild birds, but 
also rats, mice, and chickens, which animals undoubtedly destroy 
vastly more stored grain than all native birds together. 

A small quantity of the corn eaten by the rose-breasted grosbeak 
may be pilfered from the growing crop, one bird taken in Pennsyl- 
vania in July having eaten enough corn to form 8 percent of its 
stomach contents, and one from Illinois in September consumed 50 
percent. There is no way of determining positively whether this 
grain was crop corn or waste ; but if only 2 grosbeaks out of 176 take 
corn from the ear, there is no cause for alarm. The corn obtained 
in May by 2 other rosebreasts from Illinois and Minnesota may have 
been either seed or waste. 

Oats. — Seed oats may sometimes be devoured by grosbeaks. E. A. 
Mearns says : a 

Where fields newly sown with the cereal grains are convenient to its wood- 
land retreats, it * * * will collect in large flocks, and resort there con- 
tinually, as long as there is a grain of seed to be had. 

As this statement refers to a locality in New York where the rose- 
breast occurs only from May to September, the crop in question must 
be oats. 

This grain was eaten by 5 of the birds examined, 4 of which may 
have obtained it from newly sown fields, but even this trifling injury 
to the crop may be prevented and other advantages secured by drill- 
ing. The fifth grosbeak, which was collected in Illinois in July, prob- 
ably obtained the oats it devoured from standing grain. 

oBull. Essex Inst, 12, 1880, p. 21. 


Wheat. — A certain quantity of wheat also may be taken from the 
heads, but no complaints of such damage have been received, the only 
observation at hand which bears upon the point being that of Audu- 
bon. Referring to a brood of young rose-breasted grosbeaks in the 
vicinity of Cincinnati, he says : a " The parents fed them on the soft 
grains of wheat which they procured in a neighboring field." Four 
grosbeaks out of the 176 examined had fed upon wheat. That ob- 
tained by 1 collected in Connecticut in May is obviously waste, but 
3 birds, which had eaten wheat during July and August in Iowa and 
Illinois, may have attacked standing grain. These 4 birds obtained 
about 3 kernels of wheat each, which is an average of less than a 
fourteenth of a kernel apiece for the 176 grosbeaks examined. Now, 
if the proportion of grosbeaks eating wheat, 4 to 176, or thereabouts, 
holds true for this species at large, and the birds do not exceed the 
moderate average of 3 kernels each, it would require the united ef- 
forts of the grain eaters among some 300,000 grosbeaks to consume a 
quart (21,000 kernels) of average wheat. It is evident, therefore, 
that the rosebreast's wheat-eating habits can not be termed injurious. 

To sum up the rosebreast's relation to grain crops, as shown by 
the present investigation, 15 birds out of a total of 176 fed upon 
grain, including oats, wheat, and corn. Wheat and corn eaten by 4 
of these very probably was waste, while 3 birds had taken corn from 
a crib, and 4 had eaten oats which may have come from newly sown 
fields. In both cases the injury was easily preventable. Six gros- 
beaks, consuming one or the other of the grains mentioned, may have 
pilfered standing crops. This latter injury to grain constitutes the 
only real case against the bird, and involves only 1.17 percent of 
the total food of the birds examined. If this ratio holds true for the 
entire species, the damage is of no special consequence. This view is 
further strengthened by the fact that no complaints have been made 
of injury to standing grain, the only stage in which it is subject to 
attack under the best methods of culture. 


All grosbeaks are usually thought to feed much on buds, and none 
of the species are believed to be more fond of them than the rose- 
breast. Most writers have commented on this habit of the rose- 
breast, and it is referred to also by many correspondents. However, 
buds were found in but 2 of the stomachs examined, while flowers of 
trees were found in 4, and it is quite possible that more of the records 
of field observers relate to flowers than to buds. Among trees whose 
buds are said to be devoured are beech, cherry, pear, wild plum, soft 

a Birds of America, III, 1841, p. 210. 



maple, box elder, and elm. Apparently some of these are greatly 
relished. G. E. Atkinson, of Ontario, says:° 

They cut off the buds [of beech] close to the twig, eat the soft pip, and drop 
the shells. On May 11, I * ■ * * saw three rose-breasted grosbeaks feeding, 
* * * occasionally darting out at a passing insect. I managed to secure one 
and its stomach was packed with these buds. 

The practical significance of the rosebreast's budding has been the 
subject of widely varying opinions. Seventeen statements concern- 
ing the subject are at hand, which, briefly put, are as follows: One 
author holds the grosbeak injurious; one thinks it may possibly be 
so; two perceive very little damage; one considers any detriment in 
this way fully recompensed by the bird's utility in other directions: 
ten assert that no harm whatever is done, and two declare that bud- 
ding is beneficial. It will be of interest to cite in full some of these 
diverse opinions. E. A. Mearns writes : b 

Soon after its arrival, the rose-breasted grosbeak appears about our houses, 
and. possibly, does some damage to the fruit crops by eating the blossoms in 
the orchards ; it is especially fond of those of the cherry, and the rapidity with 
which it dispatches them is quite marvelous. 

H. D. Minot says : ' «» 

He * * * eats buds, often committing depredations on our fruit trees; 
and he must be considered as injurious to agriculture. He frequently plucks 
blossoms, and, dexterously cutting off the petals, etc.. lets them fall, while he 
retains the ovary which contains the seeds. 

Commenting upon the latter author's statement, William Brewster 
observes : d 

There are no good reasons for assuming that this injures the trees or even 
their crops of fruit. On the contrary, both are probably benefited by the 
process, which is, in effect, a sort of fruit pruning, seldom if ever more severe 
than that practiced by the thrifty horticulturists. 

It will have been noted that the above quotations refer to flowers, 
which, as previously stated, seem to be eaten much more commonly 
than leaf buds. Dr. B. H. Warren found flowers of hickory in 
11 stomachs, those of beech in 26, maple in 3, and other blossoms in 
23 stomachs collected during May in Pennsylvania. Dr. A. K. Fisher 
has observed rosebreasts feeding on the flowers of elm and walnut, 
and during the present investigation flowers of oaks were found in 4 
stomachs, the blossoms in two of them being of the post oak {Quercus 
minor). No appreciable damage ensues from the bird's habit of 
feeding on the flowers of forest trees, since the fruits of these trees 

a Trans. Canad. Inst., Ill (1890-91), 1S92, p. 40. 

6 Bright Feathers of North American Birds of Beauty, F. R. Rathbun, 1881, 
pp. 31-32. 

c Land Birds and Game Birds of New England, 2d ed., 1S95, p. 241. 
d Loc. cit. 


are of little economic value. Moreover, it is noticeable that the fruit- 
producing or pistillate flowers are not the ones preferred, but the 
sterile staminate ones. These are produced in countless millions, and 
wither and fall away after a short season. All of the plants named 
above, whose seeds are even occasionally utilized by man, such as 
the hickories, walnuts, beech, and oaks, have the staminate and pis- 
tillate flowers separate, while no use is made of the seeds of the maple 
and elm, which have both sexes present in a single flower. 

Buds were found in but 2 stomachs, those in one being identified as 
poplar, and remains of tender young shoots of some woody plant were 
eaten bv another grosbeak. These results indicate a much slighter 
preference for buds than the bird is usually credited with. But even 
admitting that the bird relishes buds, it is difficult to conceive how 
forest and shade trees, numerous as they are, can possibly be injured, 
since the rosebreast never gathers in large flocks during the budding- 
season. With fruit trees the case is different, for an isolated tree in a 
home garden may receive the attentions of several birds at the same 
time. But even then the chance of injury is slight, and in the major- 
ity of cases the tree, as stated above, receives no more than a bene- 
ficial pruning. 


The rosebreast is said to feed occasionally on cultivated fruits, but 
no complaints of serious injury by the bird have been received. Most 
observers state that they lose but little fruit by grosbeaks, and this 
is considered only partial payment for services rendered. One cor- 
respondent, after mentioning the fact that the birds eat the potato 
beetle, says: 

They also feed on my berries. Still I plant enough for all, and put up with 
the loss for the sake of their good qualities. 

The rosebreast is reported to attack cherries, currants, and other 
berries. During the examination of stomachs, how r ever, cultivated 
fruit was found to have been eaten by only 1 grosbeak. T^his bird and 
a companion were collected in a cherry tree in Massachusetts, where 
they were suspected of pilfering the fruit. One had eaten perhaps a 
single mouthful of cherry, which constituted 18 percent of its 
stomach contents, and had eaten also some weevils, stink bugs, and 
a potato beetle, all highly injurious insects. Several other grosbeaks 
of the present collection were killed because they were thought to be 
eating fruit, but their stomachs yielded no trace of it. 


While cultivated fruit is a negligible item of the rosebreasted 
grosbeak's bill of fare, wild fruit, on the contrary, is the most im- 
portant single article, constituting 19.3 percent, or almost a fifth of 


the total food. Many different kinds of fruit are eaten, among 
which elderberries are probably of most importance. Both the com- 
mon sweet elder (Sambucus canadensis) and the red-berried elder 
(&. pubens) were identified. Nineteen birds had eaten these fruits, 
which often composed from 60 to 90 percent of the stomach contents. 
In the gizzard of 1 grosbeak were found fully 200 seeds, which 
means that no less than 40 to 50 berries were taken at one meal. 
Blackberries and raspberries rank next in preference, IT birds having 
eaten them, and they sometimes constitute 80 percent of the food of 
individual birds. 

Mulberries also are relished, the rosebreast often being observed 
feeding on the wild red mulberry (Morus rubra). June berries 
(Amelanchier canadensis, Plate II, fig. 3) were eaten by 3 of the 
grosbeaks examined, 80 seeds being discovered in 1 stomach. Eight 
or more of these rather large fruits must therefore have been taken 
by this bird. Among other wild fruits eaten by the birds examined 
are wild red and black cherries (Plate II, fig. 1), choke chercy, rough- 
leaved dogwood (Plate II, fig. 6), winter- 
green, checkerberry, red haw, strawberry, 
supple-jack, and pokeberry (Plate II, fig. 
4). In addition to these, authors and 
correspondents add flowering dogwood 
(Plate II, fig. 5), juniper, and sour gum. 


Although this grosbeak is not particu- FlG - 21.— seeds of black bind- 

,,«-,«.,' , -, , -, , i weed {Polygonum convolvu- 

larly iond 01 the seeds 01 weeds, it takes lus) . (From miiman, Ne- 

part in the warfare which birds wage vada Experiment station.) 

against these misplaced plants, and attacks some very troublesome 
species. Fifteen and three- fourths percent of the bird's food is com- 
posed of weed seed, and a greater proportion is consumed in August 
and September than in other months. The seeds of smartweed and 
bindweed (fig. 21), species unfavorably known both in country and 
town, were selected by the greater number of rosebreasts. Those of 
tumble weed or amaranth (fig. 18) are next in favor, and when eaten at 
all almost invariably compose the major part of the stomach contents. 
These weeds are obnoxious almost every where, and their bad qualities 
are universally acknowledged. Seeds of foxtail (figs. IT and 37), 
highly valued in the dietary of many birds, were fed upon by but 
2 rose-breasted grosbeaks, and other grass seeds — a small wild oat 
in 2 cases — were eaten by 4 of the birds examined. Nightshade 
and sedge seeds were each selected by the same number of birds. The 
akenes of both common (fig. G) and giant ragweed were sampled, and 


the seeds of vervain (fig. 3) "and dock are occasionally devoured. 
Milkweed and sunflower are added to this list by other writers. 


The rosebreast feeds upon some vegetable matter which does not 
fall into any of the previously discussed categories. Seeds of the 
touch-me-not and blood-root, plants widely known for their flowers, 
are examples. Each was eaten by 1 individual, and 1 fed upon red- 
bud seeds also, which constituted 80 per cent of its stomach contents. 
The spiny, globe-like fruits of the sweet gum {Liquid 'arnbar sti/ra- 
eiflua) are bitten into occasionally, but the remains found in the 
stomach so resemble another but unknown substance that it was pos- 
sible to identify them certainly in only one instance, and then by 
means of the very characteristic fertile seeds. The pendent sycamore 
balls are sometimes rifled of their seed, as also are the aments of alder 
and birch. 

Among the objects most puzzling to classify economically are the 
curious excrescences of plants, known as galls. These, as is well 
known, are nurseries for insects, within which the larvas develop. 
They are eaten by many birds, extensively by some, and in an instance 
cited by Dr. A. D. Hopkins," turkeys, chickens, and even hogs and 
cattle fattened on an abundant gall of the black oak, known in Mis- 
souri and Arkansas as " oak wheat " or " wheat mast." An analysis 
accompanies this note which leaves no doubt that the nourishing 
elements of galls are of vegetable, not animal, origin. Although this 
may not be true of all galls, such as certain thin-walled kinds made by 
plant lice in which at the proper stage the bulk of the imprisoned 
insects exceeds that of the shell, yet generally, no doubt, it is safe to 
classify galls as vegetable food. This has been done in the case of 
those eaten by grosbeaks. Nine rosebreasts had eaten galls, but in 
only one instance did they compose as much as half the food. The 
galls eaten appeared to be similar to the spherical species common on 

Animal Food. 

Animal food, consisting almost exclusively of insects, composes 52 
percent of the food of the rose-breasted grosbeak. Nearly 36 per- 
cent is beetles, 3.82 percent caterpillars, 6.43 percent Hymenoptera, 
and 2.38 percent scale insects, the remainder (about 3.33 percent) 
being made up from several other groups of invertebrates. While 
the rosebreast feeds upon a large number of formidable insect pests, 
it devours some beneficial species also. The latter are accorded prior 

a Proc. Ent. Soc. Wash., V, 1903, pp. 151-152. 


As just noted, almost 6.5 percent of the total food is Hymenoptera, 
and as this group contains some of the most useful of all insects, it 
must be ascertained how many, if any, of these forms fall a prey to 
the bird. The beneficial Hymenoptera are the small parasitic species, 
the eggs of which are deposited in the bodies of caterpillars and in 
the eggs of many insects, to develop there and later destroy their 
hosts, and the larger wasps, which store up caterpillars and other 
creatures as food for their }^oung. Very few parasitic species were 
found in the stomachs, the larger Hymenoptera apparently being 
preferred. In many cases a single wasp composed from 40 to 90 
percent of the stomach contents of individual grosbeaks. It is pos- 
sible that among these are some of the highly beneficial solitary 
wasps, but the probabilities are that most of them belong to the more 
abundant, gregarious species, which although often beneficial would 
lose little by the destruction of few of their number. 

Fifty-four of the 176 grosbeaks examined were found to have 
eaten Hymenoptera of some sort, which shows that the bird has a 
decided liking for these insects; but, as just mentioned, few bene- 
ficial species are eaten, while a number of injurious ones are devoured. 
One grosbeak secured a cuckoo fly (Chrysis sp.), which is a parasite 
of the useful solitary wasps. Three fed upon sawfly larvae, which 
have habits like caterpillars, and are injurious to roses, currants, 
pear, Avillow, and other plants. One bird when collected had 10 
sawfly larvae in its beak, which it was probably gathering for its 
young; while in the stomach of another grosbeak were 24 of these 
larvae, which constituted 60 percent of the contents. The few ants 
taken are injurious, especially those of the genus Camponotus, which 
sometimes devour the wood of living trees, hollowing them out to 
mere shells. Two rosebreasts ate little mining bees (Andrena) , one 
consuming 26 of these and nothing else. They have no special 
economic significance except as carriers of pollen. 

Passing now to beetles, this gTosbeak was found to prey upon 
members of three useful families, the ground-beetles (Carabidae), 
ladybirds (Coccinellida?), and fireflies (Lampyridae). Seven birds 
ate predaceous ground-beetles, but since they compose only a little 
more than 0.5 percent of the food from May to September, little 
harm is done. One of the 7 grosbeaks captured a large shining black 
ground-beetle (Pasimachus depressns) , which is about an inch in 
length and is one of the most powerful insects of the family. 

Three birds ate coccinellid beetles, one securing a twice-stabbed 
ladybird (Chilocorus bivulnerus), a noted enemy of scale insects. 
If many such beetles were eaten, damage would be done, but as they 
compose less than 0.2 percent of the total food, it is evident that only 
occasionally one is snapped up. Moreover, the grosbeak compensates 


for any injury done in this way by feeding upon the prey of these 
beetles — the scale insects. 

Fireflies, which are predaceous both in the larval and adult stage, 
are constantly fed upon by grosbeaks. These insects are supposed to 
be excellent examples of protected species, having the power of secret- 
ing nauseous juices, while the " fire " is supposed to act as a warning 
signal and certify the bearer's identity to its enemies. It is said that 
some birds refuse them. However, since 28 rose-breasted grosbeaks 
fed upon them and 6 to 12 of the beetles were found in single stom- 
achs, they must be relished by this species at least. Fireflies prey 
upon many important agricultural pests; hence the destruction of 
any considerable number of them is a loss; and while but 2.71 per- 
cent of the grosbeak's food consists of these useful beetles, the bird is 
chargeable with a distinctively injurious habit. 

Thus far only a fourth of the rosebreast's animal food has been 
discussed. Less than half this amount, or only about a tenth of the 
total animal matter, is made up of beneficial insects whose destruc- 
tion is a loss to man. The remaining nine-tenths con- 
sists in part of insects of neutral import, but mostly 
of positively injurious species. 

Included in the latter category are the bronzy wood- 
borers (Buprestidse), among the most serious pests to 
fruit and forest trees. The larva, known as flat- 
headed borers, do the mischief, often killing trees by 
fig. 22. — Pme completely girdling them just under the outer bark. 
( chaicophom The adults are incased in a glittering coat of hardest 
virginiensis) . ma ji an( j although they expose themselves on flowers 

(Marx del. Bu- ' ,■•.,* i pi 

reau of Ento- and leaves or on the limbs of trees," they are not red 
moiogy. upon to a marked degree by most birds. The rose- 

breasted grosbeak, however, seems to relish them, 3.02 percent of its 
food being composed of these well-protected beetles. The larger spe- 
cies are sometimes captured, one grosbeak having obtained the bulky 
buprestid Chaicophom virginiensis (fig. 22), which is very destruc- 
tive to pines. This species is an inch in length and as firm and hard 
as a nut. Smaller species of another genus (Dicer ca, including D. 
obscura), which feed on hickory and other deciduous trees, also are 
devoured. Many others not identified were eaten by the 26 grosbeaks 
which secured buprestids, and the rosebreast must be characterized 
as one of the important enemies of these beetles. 

Resembling the buprestids in compact build and equaling them 
in evil qualities are the click-beetles (Elateridse), the larva? of which 
are commonly known as wireworms. Their attacks on meadow- 
grass, grains, and strawberries are of annual occurrence, and result 
in much damage. Twenty-three grosbeaks, or about one-seventh of 


the number examined, devoured click-beetles, thus benefiting the 
farmer considerably. 

Not so many of the birds fed upon long-horned borers, but the re- 
sulting benefits are less valuable only in degree, as the beetles of this 
family are often disastrous pests. They are frequently large and 
strikingly colored, and one of the handsomest, as well as the most 
injurious kinds, the painted hickory borer (Cyllene pictus) is eaten 
by the rosebreast. This insect is known as the commonest and most 
destructive pest of the hickory. Another borer also (Phymatodes 
varins), which lives in dead wood, and which is sometimes injurious 
to the tanbark industry in the South, is devoured. . 

The rosebreast shows particular fondness for large beetles, a taste 
readily gratified among the lamellicorn or scarabseid beetles. Among 
these larger species, beetles of the genus Dichelonycha, which feed 
upon flowers and sometimes are destructive to cultivated plants, were 
eaten by 9 rosebreast s. Six ate cetoniids 
(Euphoria fulgida. et al.), which are es- 
pecially adapted for feeding on flowers, 
and which also at times turn their atten- 
tion to fruit and the tassels, silk, and 
young grains of corn. The beautiful 
and bulk} 7 goldsmith beetle, about three- 
fourths of an inch long, is captured oc- 
casionally, and for this service the bird 
is to be commended, as sometimes the 
larvae are verv destructive to strawber- 

. , ., * , , Fig. 23. — Seed corn scarabaeid 

ries. A white grub or larva of a june- (Aphodws granarms). (From 
bug was the plump morsel obtained by Forbes ' Illinois Experiment 
another grosbeak. The ravages of this 

beetle in lawns and strawberry plots are well known. The bird 
feeds also upon another good-sized scarabseid (Anomala binotata). 
which injures grapes and other plants. 

Among the smaller members of this family the dung beetles, 
which occur in large numbers, flying near the ground along country 
roads, are frequently captured by this grosbeak. Most of them are 
of neutral economic position, but one species (Aphodius granarius, 
fig. 23), burrows into sprouting corn. Having this bad habit, the 
farmer is indebted to the grosbeak for preying upon it. 

Passing to a group of beetles, the weevils, which are an important 
element of the food of most birds, and which are so uniformly in- 
jurious that almost any one of them may be deemed a pest, it is grati- 
fying to note that the rosebreast does its share toward checking 
them. Moreover, among the kinds it eats is one of the very worst 
enemies of cultivated fruit in the United States, namely, the plum 
curculio (C onotrachelus nenuphar, fig. 24). One grosbeak devoured 



three of these destructive weevils, Avhich may be taken as indicating 
that an opportunity to feed on them is not overlooked. In this con- 
nection it is of interest to recall the other birds that are known to 
prey upon this pest. They are 8 in number : Great-crested flycatcher, 
Baltimore and orchard orioles, yellow-throated vireo, bank swallow, 
veery, hermit thrush, and bluebird. The grosbeak does not confine 
itself to the plum curculio, but evinces a taste- for related species, 
two of which were identified. These infest the hackberry and hick- 
or}^, respectively. A fourth kind was present in the stomachs, but 
could not be assigned a specific name. The curculios destroy a large 
proportion of the fruit of the trees they attack, and are capable of 
doing vast damage ; hence the services of the birds that devour them 
are of great value. 

Belated to the curculios are the nut weevils (Balaninus), which 
attack their favorite plants in much the same way, and often ruin 

the crop of nut-bearing 
trees. Six grosbeaks ate 
from 1 to 3 each of these 
weevils, one bird captur- 
ing 2 acorn weevils (B. 
nasicus). Another cur- 
culionid (H ylobius 
pales), which feeds both 
in living pine trees and 
pine logs, is included in 
the grosbeak's diet, and 
a weevil (Ampeloglypter 
sesostris), which infests 
the Virginia creeper, was highly relished by an Illinois rosebreast, 
11 being eaten, which constituted 74 percent of the stomach contents. 
Others in the same group are consumed, as many as 4 or 5 being eaten 
by individuals of the more than 20 birds which fed upon them. 

A second family of weevils, the scarred snout-beetles, also con- 
tributes to the fare of this grosbeak, and four of them composed 87 
percent of the food of one bird ; while another rosebreast, one of four 
which fed upon clover weevils (Sitones), captured 13. Billbugs 
(Calandridse) are represented in the bird's diet by the conspicuously 
red and black colored snout-beetle (Rhodobaenus 13-punctatus) , com- 
mon on thorough wort {Eupatorium) . A weevil of yet another branch 
of the suborder is sometimes devoured, namely, the peculiar brenthid 
(Eupsalis minuta) , a very slender weevil which bores into living oak. 
Altogether weevils constitute 3.64 per cent of the rosebreast's food, in 
which amount are included several great pests; hence the bird's 
weevil-eating propensities result in much benefit to man. 

Fig. 24.— Plum curculio (Conotrachelus nenuphar). 
(From Chittenden, Bureau of Entomology.) 


There remains for consideration the family of beetles which con- 
tributes most largely to the grosbeak's subsistence, namely, the leaf- 
beetles (Chrysomelidse). This family, as an item of food of the 
rosebreast, is not only most important among beetles, but is only 
second among both animal and vegetable items. In it are included 
a number of pests preyed upon by the bird, such as the striped and 
spotted cucumber beetles, the strawberry rootworm, the plum leaf- 
beetle, the locust leaf-miner, and in addition that pest which figures 
so largely in any discussion of the economic value of the rose-breasted 
grosbeak, the notorious Colorado potato beetle (fig. 25). 

The original home of this insect was in Mexico and the Rocky 
Mountains, where it fed upon the sand-bur (Solanum rostratum), 
a plant closely related to the potato. Finding a new and abundant 
supply of food in the cultivated potato, the beetle immediately began 
to multiply and to migrate eastward, spreading from 1850 to 1874 
over the northern half of the eastern United States. As it encount- 
ered practically no enemies in its new home it became so abundant and 
inflicted so great damage that successful cultivation of potatoes seemed 
no longer possible. 
However, just as the 
beetle found a new 
food, so it in turn be- 
came new N food to a 
number of mammals, 
birds, and insects, and 
presently the farmers 

learned to destrOV it (From Chittenden, Bureau of Entomology.) 

in large numbers with poisons. Hence it is no longer greatly 
dreaded, though in most sections constant vigilance must be exercised 
to prevent it from ruining the crop. 

Naturally during the period when the beetle was doing most dam- 
age everyone was on the lookout for means of checking its increase, 
and the discovery of each new natural enemy was heralded far and 
wide. -Attracting most notice among these was the rose-breasted gros- 
beak, and many articles were written calling attention to the newly 
discovered trait of this beautiful bird. It should be noted also that 
several other birds, including the bobwhite, prairie chicken, sharp- 
tailed and ruffed grouse, red-tailed hawk, nighthawk, cuckoo, crow, 
English sparrow, cardinal, scarlet tanager, wood, hermit, and olive- 
backed thrushes, and robin, eat potato beetles occasionally. 

The grosbeak's habit of feeding on the potato beetle was noted 

almost simultaneously in many localities, and references are at hand 

for the States of Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, 

Michigan, and Ohio. The rosebreast actually exterminated the po- 

1S848— Bull. 32—08—4 


-Potato beetle (Leptinotarsa clccemlineata). 


tato beetle in many patches it patrolled. Mr. W. F., Bundy, a who 
was among the earliest to write upon the subject, says : 

I noticed last summer that great numbers of the Colorado potato beetles were 
destroyed by the rosebreasted grosbeak. * * * They were so abundant in 
this region [Jefferson, Wis.] * * * as to hold in check the vast army of 
these ravagers of the potato crop. 

The beetles are attacked as soon as they emerge from their winter 
quarters, according to Mr. J. S. Cook, & of northern Illinois, who says : 

I have seen them so gorge themselves with these beetles that they were 
scarcely able to fly. I have investigated in the spring, when the beetles first 
came out of the ground, and was unable to find a single one after following 
these birds. 

Further testimony to the value of the bird is given by Prof. 
F. E. L. Beal, c who watched the grosbeaks and their young feeding 
upon the potato bugs in his garden at Ames, Iowa : 

When a careful inspection was made a few days later not a beetle, old or 
young, could be found; the. birds had swept them from the field and saved the 

Comparison of the dates of the first appearance of the Colorado 
beetle with the earliest records when the rose-breasted grosbeak fed 
upon it shows that from six to ten years passed before the bird com- 
monly began to prey upon the insect. Even after the lapse of so 
much time it was one of the first enemies of the beetle noted and by 
far the most important among birds. 

The results of stomach examinations fully corroborate the testi- 
mony of field observers as to the extent to which the rosebreast 
feeds upon this beetle. Forty-three, or almost one- fourth of the birds 
examined, fed upon the potato beetle to such an extent that the in- 
sect makes up 9.05 percent of the subsistence of the entire number 
and nearly 35 percent of that of the individuals eating it. The 
significance of these figures will be better appreciated when it is 
considered that the potato beetle probably was not obtainable by 
many of the grosbeaks, and furthermore, that it is very unusual for 
birds to prey so extensively upon a single kind of insect, or even on 
the species collectively of a whole group. Such concentration of 
attack of a common bird upon a single species of insect, however 
numerous, can not but have a restraining influence on its numbers. 
The beetle is fed upon from May to September and both larvae and 
adults are devoured, 10 to 14 being found in single stomachs. By 
feeding upon the larvae the rosebreast directly benefit's the potato 
plants, and by destroying adults the increase of the species is checked. 

° Am. Nat., IX, 1875, p. 375. 

6 Trans. 111. Hort. Soc, 37 (1903), 1904, pp. 331-332. 

c U. S. Dept. Agr., Farmers' Bui. 54, 1904, p. 35. 



Although the potato beetle is the worst pest in the Chrysomelidse, 
this family contains other serious enemies of crops. The rosebreast 
feeds upon several of them, thereby further commending itself to our 
esteem. Both the small striped and the spotted cucumber beetles (fig. 
26) , which are abundant and injurious over much of the United States, 
are consumed. The importance of the bird's inroads upon one of 
these little black and yellow species, which in the larval stage is the 
destructive corn root-worm, is emphasized by the fact that no direct 
method of combating the insect has yet been devised. Twelve gros- 
beaks fed upon these beetles, as many as 7 being found in a single 
stomach. Further evidence of the bird's strong preference for them 
is furnished by Mr. Ridgway, who observed a number of rosebreasts 
feeding exclusively on spotted cucumber beetles in a locality where 
the latter were very 

Ten of the gros- 
beaks examined 
had eaten another 
kind of leaf-beetle 
(Melasoma lappon- 
ica), which feeds on 
willows and pop- 
lars, sometimes 
working havoc by 
defoliating trees, 
especially in wind- 
breaks. These 
beetles appear to 
be much relished, 
as from 10 to 27 
were taken by individual rosebreasts, of whose food they composed 
from 60 to almcst 100 percent. Two or three other species of Chry- 
somelidas, injurious to willows, to grapes, and to garden crops, are 
devoured. Nine birds ate beetles of one of these species {CaUigrapha 
bigsbyana), which in individual cases constituted 70 per cent of the 
stomach contents. The rosebreast devours also two Hispid leaf- 
beetles, one of which causes considerable injury. This is the locust 
leaf-miner (Odontota dorsalis), which sometimes devastates whole 
groups of trees, leaving them as if scorched by fire. Eight grosbeaks 
had eaten leaf-miners, and in one case 8 were consumed by a single 

The long list of beetles of this family that are preyed upon by the 
rosebreast is completed by the strawberry root-worm {Typophorus 

Fig. 26.— Spotted cucumber-beetle (Diabrotica 12-punctata) 
(From Riley and Chittenden, Bureau of Entomology.) 


canelkis), which at times is very destructive, the plum leaf-beetle 
(Nodonota tristis), which causes dropping of cotton bolls, a species 
(Griburius equestris) which feeds on wild roses, and another wild- 
flower beetle (Cryptocephalus quadrimaculatus) . 

With the Chrysomelidse is concluded also the list of principal 
Coleopterous families. The grosbeak eats few others. One rose- 
breast devoured 5 of the decidedly malodorous burying beetles 
(Silpha noveboracensis) , which feed on carrion, while another cap- 
tured one hard, polished Hister, an insect of similar habits. Sixteen 
of the little orange and black Ips fasciatus were secured by one of 
the three birds which fed upon this occasional depredator of stored 
vegetables and grain. 

It thus appears that a large number of the beetle enemies of agri- 
culture are preyed upon by the rose-breasted grosbeak. An almost 
equal array of serious pests is secured from the ranks of another 
order, which is eaten to only one-ninth the extent that beetles are, 
namely, the moth and butterfly order or Lepicloptera. 

This group may be discussed conveniently under the heads " larvae " 
and " adults." The latter do not seem to be eaten to any great extent 
by birds, and only 2 rosebreasts fed upon them. Four moths were 
secured, but they composed less than 0.2 percent of the total food. 
The larvae or caterpillars, however, are more generally relished by- 
birds and often are eaten in large numbers. Twenty-two out of the 
176 rosebreasts had eaten caterpillars, some of them securing from 6 
to 14 each, which usually constituted from 50 to 85 percent of the 
stomach contents. They make up 3.82 percent of the entire food of 
all the rosebreasts examined. 

It is well known that at times the depredations of lepidopterous 
insects, such as canker worms, tent caterpillars, gipsy moths, and 
many others, are very serious, threatening ruin to orchards and even 
large forests, and thus becoming of State, if not National, importance. 
The difficulties encountered in combating such pests render the aid 
of natural enemies most valuable. It should be widely known that 
the rose-breasted grosbeak is conspicuous among the enemies of these 
insects, and also that it feeds upon no fewer than eight of the very 
worst lepidopterous pests. 

Among the more widely known of these are the canker worms, 
which are very destructive to both orchards and woodlands. They 
often strip orchards so that they appear as if fire swept, and when 
their attacks are continued for a few years the trees die. The rose- 
breasted grosbeak devours both the spring canker worm (Paleacrita 
vernata, fig. 35) and the fall canker worm (Alsophila pometaria, 
fig. 27). Two birds collected in Illinois in May had fed upon the 
former caterpillar, while O. W. Knight testifies that in Pleasant 
Valley, Me., the birds actively attack the other. 



Fig. 27. — Fall 

cankerworm (AlsopMla 
(From Riley, Bureau of 

The dreaded army worm (Heliophila unipuncta, fig. 28-), which 
sometimes appears in myriads and devastate fields of grain and grass, 
also is the prey of this beautiful grosbeak. A bird from Illinois in 
Jul} 7 had captured G of these destructive caterpillars. 

The tent-caterpillars are another group of noxious lepidopterous 
insects, which are common in many 
parts of the United States. They 
greatly damage orchards, as well as 
shade and woodland trees. E. H. 
Forbush a is authority for the state- 
ment that the rose-breasted gros- 
beak preys upon the orchard tent- 
caterpillar (Malacosoma americana, 
fig. 29), and Prof. C. M. Weed & 
reports that the bird devours 
moths, larvae, and pupae of the forest tent-caterpillar (31. disstria). 

Two other insects of this order, which are usually thought of 
together and which indeed are closely related, are the gipsy moth 
(fig. 30) and the brown-tailed moth (fig. 31). 
Mere mention of their names calls to mind the 
enormous damage done by them in the State of 
Massachusetts, and of the costly efforts being 
made to stamp out these disastrous invaders 
from across the sea. Birds have proved of serv- 
ice as allies in this struggle, and the present 
species is by no means least in importance 
among them. In the original report c on the 
gipsy moth, as well as in later publications,** 
the rosebreast is listed among the species de- 
vouring the larva?, while in regard to the 
brown-tail moth Messrs. Mosher and Kirkland 
report e that " a rose-breasted grosbeak ate 57 
caterpillars in twenty minutes." 

This species eats hairy and spiny caterpillars 
as readily as smooth ones, and the idea so often 
advanced that such hairy armature is effective 
protection against the attack of birds receives little support from the 
food habits of the grosbeaks. Tussock and gipsy moths and both 
of the tent caterpillars are devoured, though very hairy. The 


Fig. 28. — Army worm 
(Heliophila unipuncta ). 
(From Chittenden, Bu- 
reau of Entomology.) 

"Mass. State Bd. Agr. Rep. (1900), 1901, p. 315. 

& N. H. Exp. Sta. Bull. 75, 1900, p. 121. 

c Forbush, E. H., and Fernald, C. H.. The Gipsy Moth, 1896, p. 219. 

d Forbush, E. H., Mass. State Bd. Agr. Rep. (1900), 1901, p. 313. 

e Forbush, E. H., Mass. State Bd. Agr. Rep., 1899, p. 322. 



browntail, the hairs of which so irritate human flesh, also is eagerly 
eaten, and other caterpillars clothed with spines were found in the 
stomachs examined. In several gizzards, indeed, a mass of branching 
caterpillar spines was all that remained to show the nature of the 



Fig. 29. — Orchard tent-caterpillar (Malacosomu americana). (From Riley, Bureau of 


food. It is evident that neither hairs nor even pricking, stinging 
spines are adequate to protect a caterpillar from a hungry grosbeak. 
Besides Hymenoptera, Coleoptera, and Lepidoptera, which have 
been discussed in the order named, but one group of insects of impor- 
tance in the dietary of 

/l// / ll \l l\\ I 1 1 /)/// l\/\ I ^ ie rose b reas t remains, 

that of true bugs 
( Hemiptera ) , includ- 
ing the stink bugs, 
tree hoppers, plant lice, 
and scale insects. From 
this miscellaneous as- 
semblage the grosbeak 
selects 3.89 per cent of 
its food, and two- 
thirds of this amount consists of the minute pests known as scale 
insects. From an economic standpoint also the latter are of great- 
est importance, as they rank among the worst enemies of agriculture 
in the United States. Orchards, both of the deciduous and citrus 

Fig. 30. 

-Gipsy moth caterpillar (Porthetria 
(From Bureau of Entomology.) 

dispar) . 



fruits, are most seriously affected, while shade and forest trees also 
suffer greatly. 

Thirty-three of the rosebreasts examined had eaten scale insects, 
four kinds of which were identified. The plum scale (Eulecannim 
cerasifex), which is an occasional pest on cherry, apple, and pear, 
besides the tree from which it is named, seems to be relished. A 
female grosbeak collected in Indiana in May had consumed 36 plum 
scales, which constituted 95 percent of its food. Of two birds from 
Illinois, one ate 45 and the other more than 100 scales of this species, 
which composed 95 and 100 percent, respectively, of their stomach 
contents. Two nearly related species, the hickory scale (E. caryce) 
and the tulip scale (E. tulipiferce) , which latter sometimes seriously 

Fig. 31. — Brown-tail moth (Euproctis chrysorrhoea). (From Howard, Bureau of Ento- 

injures shade trees, also are devoured. Eleven grosbeaks ate uni- 
dentified species of the same genus of scale insects ; two preyed upon 
the oak scale (Kermes), while the stomachs of 15 birds contained 
scale remains which defied determination. 

The fact that birds exert a restrictive influence upon scales has re- 
mained almost unknown, these small insects being considered well 
protected from feathered enemiies by their minute size and waxy 
secretions. Hence little attention has been paid to the subject, and 
the accounts of a few writers who announced the true relations of 
birds to scales were overlooked or ignored. Recent investigations 
have shown that many of our birds eat scales* The rose-breasted gros- 
beak is prominent among them, both because it eats a maximum num- 



ber of species and because at times it makes scales a considerable part 
of its fare. These little pests can not have too many enemies for the 
good of mankind, and every bird that preys upon them should be wel- 
comed and protected. 

The rosebreast sometimes feeds upon plant lice (Aphididae), espe- 
cially those that live on birch ; and a number of these fragile insects 
were found in a single stomach. Among other bugs, the odd little 
buffalo tree-Jiopper (Ceresa bubalus, fig. 32), and a few of the flower- 
bug and squash-bug families were found. Eight grosbeaks ate mem- 
bers of the stink-bug family. In feeding upon these insects the rose- 
breast gives further evidence of its indifference to flavors and odors 
which to us are repulsive and nauseating in the extreme. Two of the 
birds examined had devoured specimens of the banded soldier bug 

Fig. 32. — Buffalo tree-hopper (Ceresa bubalus) . (From Marlatt, Bureau of Entomology.) 

(MUyas cinctus)\ which preys upon many insects, including the po- 
tato beetle, and of another assassin bug (Sinea diadema), which 
preys upon cankerworms and other caterpillars, besides flies and bees, 
including the honey bee. TVere the habit of devouring such bugs 
general, injury would result, but fortunately it is not. According to 
B. F. Gault. the rosebreast feeds upon the chinch bug. which at times 
has proved the worst crop pest in the country. 

A remarkable feature of the rosebreast 's dietary is the few grass- 
hoppers eaten. These nutritious insects, which are welcomed by 
almost all birds, compose only 0.2 percent of the food of the whole 
number of grosbeaks examined. Results from the present collection 
of stomachs may not represent a fair average, but as proportionate 
numbers of the individuals examined were secured in the grass- 


hopper season the data indicates at least a well-defined tendency of 
the bird to neglect them. That it does not actually dislike grasshop- 
pers there is sufficient proof, for John Bachman wrote to Audubon a 
that a caged specimen " ate grasshoppers and crickets with peculiar 
relish," and Samuel Aughey b examined two specimens collected dur- 
ing one of the historic invasions of the Kocky Mountain locust, each 
of which " had about a dozen of locusts in its stomach." 

Comparatively little weight, however, attaches to these instances, 
since the conditions were unusual. It is worthy of note that the 
closely related blackheaded grosbeak similarly neglects grasshoppers. 
Four rosebreasts fed upon this class of insects, 2 securing the pe- 
culiar shield-back grasshoppers, in one case to the number of 6, 
which composed 85 percent of the stomach contents, while the other 
2 birds had eaten an ordinary grasshopper and an orthopterous in- 
sect not identified. 

The small quantity of animal matter not yet detailed comprises 
spiders and their egg-sacs, which were eaten by 3 grosbeaks, and 
insect eggs and a fly by 1 each. Only 1 bird of this species had 
eaten a snail, which indicates that the rosebreast cares less for this 
kind of food than does the cardinal. 

Mineral Matter. 

Mineral matter, estimated in relation to the entire stomach con- 
tents, averaged 6.3 percent. Besides the ordinary sand and fine 
gravel, fragments of fossil corals and crinoids had been utilized for 
grinding material. 


Of the total number of birds only 4 were young still being fed 
by their parents, but, as usual among species whose diet is mixed, 
the proportion of animal food to vegetable is much greater in the case 
of fledglings than of adults. These 4 young rosebreasts consumed 
78 per cent of animal and 22 per cent of vegetable matter. The 2 
that were out of the nest were more highly vegetarian, one having 
eaten 85 per cent of plant substances. The latter were a berry of 
rough-leaved dogwood, some blackberries, of which 45 pits were pres- 
ent, and a few other seeds. Of the animal food consumed by the 
4 young birds, caterpillars compose 20 percent, among them being 
the larvse of sphinx moths, most of which are injurious to agricul- 
ture. Almost 25 percent is composed of beetles of various families, 
including bronzy wood-borers, click-beetles, and leaf-beetles. Repre- 
senting the last family are the species Melasoma lapponica, which 
injures willow and cottonwood windbreaks, and that noted pest the 

°Audubon, J. J., Birds of America, III, 1841, p. 211. 

6 First Ann. Rept. U. S. Ent. Conim., 1878, App. II, p. 32. 


Colorado potato beetle. Two stomachs of nestlings contained this lat- 
ter nauseous insect, larvae being found in one, adults in another. 
Wasps composed almost half of the food of one fledgling, and a 
weevil and some small cocoons constituted the remaining animal 

Passing from these results of actual stomach examination to the 
experiences of observers, it should be noted that the rosebreast's 
habit of feeding its nestlings the larvae of the potato beetle is fre- 
quently recorded. This fact is one of the best evidences of the 
importance of this beetle in the grosbeak's regimen. Prof. F. E. L. 
Beal a speaks of '* a small potato field, which earlier in the season 
was so badly infested * * * that the vines were completely rid- 
dled. The grosbeaks visited the-field every day, and finally brought 
their fledged young. The young birds stood in a row on the topmost 
rail of the fence and were fed witto the beetles which their parents 
gathered." Prof. E. F. Hitchings, State entomologist of Maine, 
gives the following interesting note: 

Several years ago I observed a pair nesting in a clump of trees in * * * 
Waterville. A piece of potatoes was planted near by, and I watched the parent 
birds as they fed their young on the larva? of the Colorado potato beetle. 1 
examined the bills of the young and found them stained and even dripping with 
the juice of the insects. It took a great many young larvae to satisfy them. 
(May 19, 1906.) 

When we reflect that every year there are thousands of grosbeak 
families throughout the breeding range of the species doing exactly 
the same thing, it can not be doubted that they exert a marked effect 
on the numbers of the potato beetle. 

The voracity of nestlings is proverbial, and their lusty appetites 
greatly enhance their value as destroyers of injurious insects. The 
number of insects eaten daily by nestlings has been recorded in the 
case of but few birds; hence we are fortunate in having E. H. For- 
bush's account of a study of the nestlings of the rosebreast : 

On June 12, 1899, Mr. Mosher watched the nest of a pair of rose-breasted gros- 
beaks from early morning to 5 p. m. * * . * For the first half hour the old 
birds were so excited by his presence that the feeding of the young birds was 
interrupted, so that no notes were taken until 6 a. in., and none were taken after 
5 p. m. The old birds visited the nest — 


Between 6 and 7 52 

Between 7 and 8 47 

Between 8 and 9 ._ 43 

Between 9 and 10 30 

Between 10 and 11 36 

Between 11 and 12 27 

Between 12 and 1 32 

Between 1 and 2 38 

Between 2 and 3 41 

Between 3 and 4 22 

Between 4 and 5 58 

making altogether 426 visits during the portion of the day that they were 
watched. The food was mainly caterpillars of one kind or another, and there 

Farmers' Bull. 54, 1904, p. 35. 


were only four visits made by a parent bird when but one insect was fed to the 
young; they usually brought three or more. A bird often carries in this way 
from three to eleven or twelve small caterpillars in its mouth and beak at one 
time. Owing to the height of the nest above the ground, it^was impossible to 
determine accurately the species of caterpillars brought to the young. A con- 
siderable portion of them were certainly leaf-rollers from the oak trees. It 
seems probable, then, that these two birds must have fed their young on that 
day at least 1,000 insects, mostly caterpillars. This certainly is a very moderate 
estimate of the number of insects destroyed in one day by the family when we 
take into consideration the food required by the old birds.** 

Although in this particular instance the precise nature of the food 
was not ascertained, there is much evidence to show that the same 
pests are fed to the young which are eaten by adults. 


Examinations of 176 stomachs of rose-breasted grosbeaks show 
that the food is composed of animal and vegetable matter in almost 
equal parts, the exact proportions being 52 and 48 percent, respec- 
tively. Of the portion of the diet gleaned from the plant kingdom, 
5.09 percent is grain, 1.37 garden peas, and 19.3 wild fruit. • A third 
of the grain eaten may possibly be pillaged from standing crops, 
but this is the only stage when injury by birds is not easily pre- 
vented. Even if the total amount of grain consumed is pilfered 
from* cultivated fields, it does not warrant hostile acts against a bird 
otherwise so beneficial. 

Wild fruit is greatly relished, but cultivated fruit is not damaged, 
and although budding is practiced to a certain degree practically no 
harm results. 

The rosebreast preys to some extent upon such beneficial insects as 
parasitic Hymenoptera, ground beetles, ladybirds, and fireflies. 
Only a tenth of the animal food is of this character, however, while 
among the remaining nine-tenths, which consists almost exclusively 
of injurious insects, is included a large number of formidable pests. 
Among these are -the cucumber beetles, the hickory borer, plum cur- 
culio, Colorado potato beetle, Rocky Mountain locust, spring and 
fall cankerworms, orchard and forest tent-caterpillars, tussock moth, 
army worm, gipsy and brown-tailed moths, and the chinch bug. The 
bird is known as an active enemy of the cankerworm and the army 
worm during their extraordinary infestations, and was among the 
birds which preyed upon the Rocky Mountain locust and the gipsy 
moth at the height of their destructiveness. 

Few birds have so good record both as to -the large number of 
important pests attacked and the slight amount of damage done. 

a Forty-seventh Annual Report Mass. State Board of Agriculture (1899) 3901, 
p. 325= 





Corn (Zca mays). 
Oats (Avena sativa). 
Wheat (Triticum vulgqre). 

Cherry (Prunus cerasus). 
Peas (Pisum sativum). 


Mulberry (Morus rubra). 
Pokeberry {Phytolacca decandra). 
Sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua). 
Blackberry (Rubus sp.). 
Strawberry (Fragaria sp.). 
Juneberry (Amelanchier canadensis). 
Red haw (Crataegus sp.). 
Wild red cherry (Prunus pennsyl- 

vanica ) . 
Choke cherry (Prunus virginiana). 

Wild black cherry (Prunus serotina). 
Reclbud (Cercis canadensis). 
Supple-jack (Berchemia scandens). 
Hough-leaved cornel (Cornus asperi- 

folia ) . 
Checkerberry (Gaultheria procum- 

Nightshade (Solanum sp.). 
Sweet elder (Sambucus canadensis). 
Red-berried elder (Sambucus pubens). 


Cottonwood (Populus sp.). 

Post oak (Quercus minor). 


Green foxtail (Chcvtochloa viridis). 

Sedge (Car ex sp.). 

Knotgrass (Polygonum ariculare). 

Pale persicaria (Polygonum lapathi- 

Pennsylvania persicaria (Polygonum 
pennsylvanicum ) . 

Black bindweed (Polygonum convolvu- 
lus ) . 

Dock (Rume.x sp.). 
Pigweed (Amaranthus sp.). 
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), 
Wild radish (Raphanus sativus). 
Touch-me-not (Impatiens biflora). 
Dodder (Cuscuta sp.). 
Blue vervain, (Verbena hastata). 
Giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida). 


Ground-beetles (C'arabida?) : 

Pasimachus depressus. 
Ladybirds (Coccmellidse) : 

Ch ilocorus bivulnerus. 

Bracli yaca ntlia ursina. 
Histeridse : 

Ulster sp. 
Nitidulidae : 

Ips fasciatus. 
Click-beetles ( Elaterida 3 ) . 
Bronzy wood-borers (Buprestidse) 

Chalcophora virgin iensis. 

Diccrca obscura. 

Fireflies (Lampyridse) : 

Ellychnia corrusca. 

Photinus pyvalis. 

Podabrus tomentosus. 

Telephorus b i 1 meatus. 

Telephorus carolinus. 

Telephorus rotundicollis. 
Lamellicorn beetles (Searabreidas) 

Aphodius flmetarius. 

Aphodius granarius. 

Aphodius inquinatus. 

Dichelonycha elongata. 

Lachnostema sp. 



coleoptera — continued. 

Lainellicorn beetles — Continued. 

Cotalpa lanigera. 

Euphoria fulgida. 
Long-horned beetles ( Cerambycidse ) 

Phymatodes varius. 

Cyllene pictus. 

Leptura sp. 
Leaf-beetles (Chrysoinelidse) : 

Orsodachna atra. 

Cryptocephalus 4-maculatus. 

Griburius equcstris. 

Typophorus canellus. 

Nodonota tristis. 

Leptinotarsa decemlineata. 

Chrysomela sp. 

Calligrapha Mgsbyana. 

Calligrapha ph iladelph. ica. 

Melasoma lapponica. 

Diabrotica 12- punctata. 

Leaf-beetles — Continued. 

Diabrotica vittata. 

Odontota dorsalis. 

Odontota nervosa. 
Scarred snout - beetles ( Otiorhyn- 

chida? ) . 
True snout-beetles (Curculionidse) : 

Sitones sp. 

Phytonomus sp. 

Hylobius pales. 

Conotrachelus albicinctus. 

Conotrachelus juglandis. 

Conotrachelus nen upliar. 

Ampeloglypter sesostris. 

Balaninus nasicus. 
Brenthidae : 

Eupsalis minuta. 
Bill-bugs (Calandridref: 

Rhodobcenus 13-punctatus. 


Tree-hoppers (Membracida?) 

Ceresa bubalus. 
Scale insects (Coccidae) : 

Kcrmcs sp. 

Eulecanium canjw. 

Euleca nium ccrasifex. 

Eulecanium t u lipiferw. 

Plant lice (Aphididse). 

Stink bugs (Pentatomidse). 


Plant bugs (Capsida?). 

Assassin bugs (Reduviidse) 

Sined diadcma. 

Milyas ductus. 


Short-horned grasshoppers (Acridiidse) 
Tcttid- sp. 

Hawk moths (Sphingidse). 
Owlet moths Noctuidse) : 
Heliophila unipuncta. 


Span worms ( Geonietrida? ) 
Paleacrita vernata. 


Short-tongued bees (Andrenidse) 
Cuckoo-flies (Chrysididae) : 
Ghrysis sp. 

Smooth - headed ants (Formicidse) 

Camponotus sp. 
Saw-flies (Tenthredinidse). 

Spiders ( Araneida ) . 


Two-winged flies (Diptera). 


| Snails (Gastropoda), 



(Zamelodia melanocephala. Plate III.) 


In form and size the black-headed grosbeak is almost a counter- 
part of the last species, but it is very different in color. In the male 
blackhead, golden brown and lemon yellow take the place of the 
rose and white of the rosebreast; while the color of the underparts 
of the female is not soiled white, as in the eastern bird, but bright 
buffy. Both sexes of the western grosbeak have a horn-colored beak ; 
that of the rosebreast is white. 

Occupying a range from the west coast eastward which is comple- 
mentary to, although slightly overlapping that of its eastern relative, 
the blackhead occurs from lowermost Mexico to southern British 
Columbia, northern Montana, western North Dakota, and north- 
eastern Nebraska. It breeds at both extremes, and withdraws in 
winter to the southern third of its range, lingering as far north, how- 
ever, as central Mexico. 

The male is a brilliant songster, the peer of any of his kin. He is 
also an excellent mate and parent, and assumes an equal share of the 
labors of the nesting season. The nests of this species are loosely 
built and generally are placed in low growth, often along streams. 
The eggs are 3 or 4 in number and are similar to those of the rose : 
breast. The young are hatched in May and June. Since the bird 
often makes its home in higher altitudes it is sometimes called the 
mountain grosbeak. 


So great is the economic importance of the black-headed grosbeak 
that partial accounts of its food habits appear in two previous pub- 
lications of the Biological Survey.^ Only TO stomachs were then 
available for examination, while more than three times that num- 
ber b are now at hand, collected in five States and Territories. As 
the greater number are from California, the present report relates 
essentially to that State. The stomachs were collected from April 
to August, inclusive. The data show that about two-thirds of the 
bird's food consists of insects and other animal matter and one- 
third of vegetable substances. To be more exact, 65.85 percent is 
animal, 34.15 vegetable. The maximum amount (79.95) of animal 
matter is consumed in June. From the standpoint of the agricul- 
turist great interest attaches to the vegetable food of this bird, as 
it is reputed to be destructive to cultivated fruit. 

a Farmers' Bull. 54, 1904, pp. 35-36 ; Yearbook Dept. Agr., 1904, pp. 246 and 

6 About half of the total number of stomachs of this species were examined 
by Prof. F. E. L. Beal. 


Vegetable Food. 

Wheat and oats constitute but 2.08 and 1.83 percent, respectively, 
of the total food. Weed seeds and miscellaneous vegetaWe matter 
make up 9.28 percent, while fruit exceeds the sum of all these ele- 
ments, and amounts to 20.96 percent of the entire subsistence, or 
almost two-thirds of the vegetable portion of the food. Fruit as an 
item of the bird's food assumes all the more importance because much 
of it is cultivated. 


Cultivated fruit that can be positively identified averages 9.85 per- 
cent of the contents of the 226 stomachs examined, and wild species 
6.37 percent. In addition, 2.02 percent consisted of blackberries and 
raspberries, which may have been either wild or cultivated; 2.72 
percent was undetermined fruit pulp of equally doubtful economic 
significance. It seems certain, therefore, that considerably more than 
half, perhaps two-thirds, of the fruit consuriied by black-headed gros- 
beaks is from orchards and gardens. As this may be taken from a 
restricted region in a limited time, the item is of considerable impor- 
tance in any locality where grosbeaks are numerous. 

Moreover, no fruit, however large and tough-skinned, is proof 
against the massive beak of the blackhead, and the bird is likely to 
damage a great deal more than it eats because of its habit of leaving 
fruits after it has taken a single bite. Indeed, many of the fruits 
it attacks are so large that the bird could not swallow them entire. 
Apples, crabapples, peaches, apricots, pears, figs, plums, cherries, 
gooseberries, and blackberries are included in complaints of injury 
which have been received by the Survey and prunes and strawberries 
must be added to the number on the evidence of stomach examina- 

According to Professor Beal, a in California the depredations by the 
black-headed grosbeak cause it to be ranked about fourth in impor- 
tance among fruit-eating birds. What this means will be better 
understood from account of the actual damage by the species. Prof. 
A. J. Cook gives the following instance :& 

A cherry grower at Ontario, Gal., reports the loss of half of a $4,000 crop 
of cherries from the depredations of birds in 1898. The birds in order of im- 
portance are Piranga ludoviciana, Pliainopepla nitens, and the present species. 

E. W. Nelson, of the Biological Survey, writes concerning his ac- 
quaintance with this grosbeak at Nevada City, Cal. : c 

I was told they were a great pest to fruit growers as they ate and destroyed a 
great many berries. This I proved by shooting several with, their bills stained 

a Yearbook Department of Agriculture 1904, p. 246. 
6 California Cultivator, Aug., 1898, p. 253. 
G Proc. Bost. Soc. Nat. Hist., 17, 1875, p. 359. 


with blackberries and their crops full of them. 1 saw many of the berries 
which they had taken one bite from, leaving the rest. 

In New Mexico the bird bears no better reputation, according to 
Jackson Tabor, of Folsom, who says : 

I have found the black-headed grosbeak to be very destructive to all kinds 
of vegetables and fruits. They made their first appearance in this country 
in the year 18SS, and they came in swarms. * * * They destroyed the entire 
crop of gooseberries and commenced on crabapples, eating the apples off the 
top of the tree as I was picking them off the lower limbs. In the spring and 
early summer they take the cherries as fast as they get ripe, and the only 
remedy seems to be to wage a war of extermination against them. ( September 
2, 1903.) 

Two stomachs were collected in Mr. Tabor's orchard on this date 
and both contained fruit, that in one stomach being identified as 

Following are the results obtained from the investigation of stom- 
ach contents: Cherries, both ripe and green, were selected by 41 
of the grosbeaks examined, frequently composing from 45 to 95 
percent of the stomach contents. All were identified by skins, not 
a seed being found, showing that the birds here and there bite 
into a cherry, destroying in this way many more cherries than if 
they satisfied their appetites by swallowing the fruit entire. Figs 
were next in order of preference, being devoured by 23 grosbeaks. 
In some cases they composed from 80 to 100 percent of the food. 
Among other fruits, remains of plums, crabapples, and apricots 
were found, each in one stomach, and strawberries in two. Uniden- 
tified fruit pulp and blackberries had been eaten by 23 birds. As 
noted above, it is uncertain whether these were cultivated or not, 
but probably the bulk were cultivated and should be charged against 
the bird. 

Thus far our investigations have revealed nothing but injury by 
the bird, but, as will be shown later, the blackhead is not exclusively 
an enemy. 

Protective methods. — In connection with this subject there re- 
mains to be considered possible methods of reducing or altogether 
preventing loss from depredations by these birds. The plan usu- 
ally suggested is the one mentioned in the above letter of Mr. 
Tabor, namely, " a war of extermination." This is generally effected 
by poisoning or shooting. 

Aside from the fact that the justice of this method is open to 
serious question, there is the greater objection that innocent species 
often suffer equally with or even in greater degree than the marau- 
der. In illustration we quote from Frank Stephens : a 

At Beale Spring both sexes were common and destroying quantities of 
fruit, to the great annoyance of the owner of the orchard, who employed an 

Condor, V, 1903, p. 103. 


Indian to shoot the birds. Unfortunately the Indian did not discriminate 
between the noxious and harmless species. 

When poisoning is resorted to as a means of defence the destruction 
of many beneficial birds is inevitable. Nevertheless, if the above 
methods are condemned the fruit grower is entitled to ask for an 
effective substitute. A device for the protection of a small number 
of trees, which can be applied on rather short notice, is bird netting. 
This was tested upon cherry trees some years ago at the Indiana 
Agricultural Experiment Station. The netting was procured at a 
cost of 4 cents per square yard and 75 yards were required per tree, 
the latter having been set six years. The fruit produced in a single 
season paid for the netting, which with careful handling, it is said, 
will last for ten years or more. This method is practicable in the 
case of a few lawn or garden trees, or possibly even in small orchards, 
and is well worth trial by anyone who considers future as well as 
present fruit crops. For it is certain that in destroying grosbeaks 
we end the lives of creatures which do much to check serious insect 
enemies of fruit. In large orchards netting of course can not be used. 

Killing the grosbeaks is a last resort to be tried only when every 
other measure has been tested and failed. It is the less excusable 
because a method is available which, even in the case of large orchards, 
yields far better results. This is the planting here and there of wild 
fruit-bearing trees and shrubs, by means of which almost complete 
protection to cultivated fruit can be assured. 

The chief essential is that the decoy trees shall be early bearing 
species, for it is the universal testimony that almost all of the damage 
done is to early fruit. How this applies in California is made clear 
in the following account of Professor Beal's experience in Alameda 
County. In the numerous orchards in Cull's Canyon only one gros- 
beak was seen where a week before, the last few days in May, they 
were common. It was a fine illustration of what has been demon- 
strated before — that the first fruits are the ones most eagerly eaten 
by the birds. When the early cherries were ripening in the orchard 
birds were to be seen on all sides — grosbeaks, orioles, tanagers, linnets, 
and jays, with now and then a blackbird or a flicker; but in June 
only one grosbeak and a few jays were seen, though the later cherries 
were just in perfection and nobody was disturbing the birds. A 
natural question is : Why are the later fruits comparatively immune 
to the attacks of birds ? It may be urged that the feathered robbers 
get enough, that their appetites flag. While perhaps true of some 
birds, satiety in no way explains the facts concerning the black- 
headed grosbeak, since this bird consumes twice as much fruit in July 
and August as in May, though the quantity secured from cultivated 

"Troop, James, Bull. 53, Dec, 1894, pp. 125-126. 
18848— Bull. 32—08 5 


sources is much less. It is evident that wild fruits are preferred, 
and that it is their abundance that protects the later ripening orchard 
varieties. In order to protect early cultivated fruit, therefore, it 
is necessary to plant decoy fruit trees which will come into bearing 
at the same time as the earliest varieties. 

Such a fruit is the mulberry, which has long been known as a fa- 
vorite of all frugivorous birds. There are many varieties derived 
from both foreign and native species, some one or other of which is 
suitable for any part of the United States. Perhaps the best of these 
to protect early fruit is the Townsend, which originated in northern 
Florida from the native red mulberry. This mulberry is very pro- 
lific and ripens fruit very early (in the latter part of March and 
April in Florida), a characteristic it will doubtless retain wherever 
it may be planted. Among other races of the same native stock are 
the Hicks, bearing in June and July, and the Stubbs, from June to 
August. The white mulberry of Asia (Morns alba) has yielded the 
Black English, the season of which is May to July, and the New 
American, fruiting at the same time, but very hardy, being adapted 
to mountain climates. The Russian mulberry (Morus a. tatarica) 
also is hardy, and bears in May and June. The suitability of the 
mulberry for California is affirmed by Prof. E. J. Wickson,® who 
says : " Nearly all varieties of the mulberry have been introduced 
in California and grown rapidly and thriftily." He commends the 
New American and Russian, mentioned above, and further states: 
" The mulberry has a long season. The Persian ripens in Tulare the 
last of May and continually thereafter until October." 

Although the mulberry is an excellent fruit when fresh, it has been 
put to little use, the main reason no doubt being that it is not adapted 
to transportation. Since it is not of commercial importance, why 
not use it to protect more valuable fruits? The returns from such 
an investment, according to the testimony of many observers, are 
great. Dr. C. Hart Merriam says : 6 

Groves of mulberry trees during the period of fruiting are thronged by hun- 
dreds if not thousands of birds, comprising many species and representing 
diverse groups. Such insectivorous kinds as flycatchers, warblers, vireos, and 
even cuckoos, form a part of the heterogeneous assemblage, departing from 
their customary diet long enough to join the multitude of blackbirds, orioles, 
finches, sparrows, tanagers, waxwings, catbirds, bluebirds, and thrushes, which 
from daylight until dark gorge themselves upon the tender berries. It seems 
incredible that such small birds as warblers, vireos, and the least flycatcher 
can open their tiny mouths wide enough to swallow such large berries as they 
really do gulp down with little effort. I know of no better tree than the mul- 
berry to plant in public and private grounds for the purpose of attracting our 
resident birds. 

° California Fruits and How to Grow Them, San Francisco, 3rd ed., 1900, 
p. 398. 

6 Kept. Chief Div. Ornith. and Mamm. (1890), 1891, p. 285. 


Further evidence of the attractive qualities of the mulberry is given 
by Dr. A. K. Fisher, who states that at his home in southern New 
York, a dark fruited, juicy Russian mulberry was a favorite food of 
a number of birds. Robins, catbirds, cedar birds, orioles, and to a 
less extent several other fruit-eating birds, fed by preference on mul- 
berries, and rarely attacked cultivated cherries, which were abundant. 
In fact, as the period of mulberry ripening extended beyond the time 
of cherry harvesting, the more valuable fruit was almost completely 
protected from the depredations of birds. 

The efficacy of the mulberry as a protection to cultivated fruits is 
fully confirmed also in a bulletin of the North Carolina Agricultural 
Experiment Station, which is exclusively devoted to the subject of 
mulberries : a 

They serve an excellent purpose near cherry trees and on strawberry planta- 
tions in attracting birds away from these fruits. As long as there are ripe 
mulberries close at hand, the other fruit will suffer very little from birds. 

1 Such being the case, the several varieties of mulberries, on account 
of their great fruitfulness and the long bearing season, are well 
adapted to the protection of a wide range of fruit crops, including 
many of the later as well as the earlier ripening fruits. 

Among other species valuable for the same purpose are certain in- 
edible cherries. Mr. H. W. Henshaw informs the writer that a single 
tree of small sour cherries afforded almost complete protection to sev- 
eral trees of very fine cultivated cherries on the place of Mr. Joseph 
Palmer, near Washington. At the time a visit was made to this place, 
catbirds, robins, and orioles were abundant, and surprise was ex- 
pressed that the crop of cherries was not molested. Pointing out a 
volunteer cherry tree, Mr. Palmer said: "There you see the reason; 
the birds will not touch the large cultivated cherries when the small 
ones are to be had." 

Examination of this tree was made during the present }^ear (1907). 
It proves to be the Mahaleb or Saint Lucie cherry (Prunus mahaleb). 
The 1907 crop of all kinds of cherries was very small, but as far as 
could be determined under the circumstances, the Mahalebs were pre- 
ferred. In five minutes the writer noted in this tree 2 brown thrash- 
ers, 1 jay, 1 bluebird, 1 cedar bird, 1 kingbird, and 3 catbirds. All ate 
the fruit greedily. It appears that the birds must have cherries, 
though not the best varieties necessarily. Hence some such species as 
the Mahaleb is likely to afford more efficient protection than any other 
kind of fruit. It ripens with the cultivated cherries in this latitude 
and is very prolific, and since it is extensively imported for graft- 
ing stock it should be obtainable at low rates. The European bird 

° H. Hume and F. C. Reimer, No. 194, 1906, p. 56. 


cherry {Prunus paclus), a most beautiful ornamental plant, also ma- 
turing fruit earl} 7 , may be used to supplement the Mahaleb. 

Other available trees and shrubs are juneberries, which fruit early, 
elderberries and blackberries for the summer, and a host, including 
native wild cherries, black and red haws, sumacs, and wild grapes, for 
the fall. 

It may be objected by the orchardist that equal protection can be 
secured and, in addition, a saving of space be effected by simply in- 
creasing the number of fruit trees to allow for the loss by birds. It 
is doubtful, however, if this method would yield equivalent protection, 
since the injury would be widely distributed and some fruit spoiled 
on every tree; whereas decoy trees bearing the natural wild food of 
the birds will prove centers of attraction, and if they do not furnish 
enough fruit to satisfy the birds, the damage to the crop will be con- 
fined to a small number of trees in their immediate vicinity. 

In this connection, in order to determine which are the best fruits 
to plant to draw the attention of the black-headed grosbeak, it is 
logical to consult the bird's own taste. We find elderberries far and 
away in the lead, they are eaten by a ninth of the whole number of 
birds examined and often compose from TO to 100 percent of the 
stomach contents. Next in importance are blackberries, which have 
been discussed, and following these, juneberries (PI. II, fig. 3), 
mulberries, and sumac fruits take equal rank. The bird is known 
to be fond also of the northwest black haw {Crataegus doiiglasi). It 
appears from the above facts that elderberries, juneberries, and mul- 
berries are the most serviceable for diverting the attacks of the black- 
headed grosbeak from cultivated fruits. 

In concluding this part of the subject it should be noted that al- 
though fruit is such a favorite food with the grosbeak, it constitutes 
only a limited part of the bird's diet, and that more than three times 
its bulk in injurious insects is eaten. Furthermore, the equivalent of 
three- fourths the amount of fruit is composed of other classes of veg- 
etable matter, including weeds and grain. 


As has been stated above, wheat averages 2.08 percent of the stom- 
ach contents of the birds examined, and oats 1.83 percent. They 
were consumed by 8 and 10 grosbeaks, respectively. The bird rarely 
has been accused of injuring either grain, but we have a bit of testi- 
mony regarding its fondness for oats. Mr. S. H. Goodwin,® referring 
to newly sown fields in Utah, states : 

I have seen these birds iu oat fields again and again, and have found them 
fairly stuffed with oats. But at most the damage is slight, for the birds are 
not sufficiently numerous to make them a serious factor in this direction, and 
the services rendered are many. 

a Deseret Farmer, III, 1907, No. 27, p. 8. 


Oats may be injured later in the season when in the milk, as some 
were found in the stomach of a nestling blackhead. This grain, 
however, may have come from the abundant wild oats. In any case, 
the small percentage of grain consumed precludes serious injury 
under all but the most exceptional conditions. 


From April to. August, inclusive, weed seeds constitute an average 
of 8*74 percent of the food of the blackheaded grosbeak. Most of 
the seeds are derived from noxious plants; hence their destruction 
is a service. Alfilaria (Erodium) seeds were taken by 13 birds, and 
chickweed (Alsine) by the same number. The little shining black 
seeds of red maids (C alandrinia) were eaten by 8 individuals, and 
the large fleshy akenes of the milk thistle (Mariana, PL II, fig. 
12) by 5. Professor Beal several times has observed blackheads 
feeding on the latter seeds, and the birds are known to be quite fond 
also of the similar seeds of the garden sunflower. Among other weed 
seeds found in the stomachs are tumbleweed (Amaranthns, fig. 18), 
smartweed (Polygonum, fig. 1), dock (Rumex), nightshade (Sola- 
tium), catchfly (Silene), geranium, and bur clover (Medicago). 

A few miscellaneous things, such as spires and wads of grass, conif- 
erous leaves, and galls, were present in a few stomachs. 

Several items not detected in the stomachs examined are men- 
tioned by other writers, and among them are garden peas, which it 
will be remembered are relished by the rosebreast also. Dr. J. A. 
Allen a wrote in 1872 that in Utah the blackhead is " called ' pea 
bird,' it being very fond of young peas, and is hence regarded as 

Mr. Jackson Tabor, of Folsom, N. Mex., in connection with hi; 
description of the bird's depredations on fruit says : 

They commenced on early vegetables, took the pea crop in toto, and put in 
their work on everything in the garden, even eating green beans that I never 
knew anything else to touch. (September 2, 1903.) 

The bird shares in a taste said by many to be characteristic of all 
grosbeaks, and Mr. Henshaw 6 in 1876, writing of the bird's habits 
in the middle region of the West, states that — 

It appears especially fond of the buds of various deciduous trees and plants, 
and the bills of many of those taken had been stained and gummed with their 

At times it feeds extensively on willow buds, according to Doctor 
Cones, and Mr. Ridgway says that in May, in Truckee Valley, 
Nevada, it was observed to feed on the buds of the greasewood. 6 

o Bull. M. C. Z., Ill, 6, 1872, p. 16S. 

6 Zool. Expl. West of 100th Meridian, V, 1876, p. 297. 

c Geol. Expl. 40th Parallel, IV, Pt. Ill, 1877, p. 48S. 


Animal Food. 

Insects and other animal matter eaten by the black-headed gros- 
beak amount to almost twice the bulk of the vegetable food, or 65.85 
percent of the total subsistence. These, then, should be regarded as 
the really staple foods of the species. While no single vegetable ele- 
ment was fed upon by more than 41 grosbeaks, certain items of the 
insect diet were chosen by more than a hundred, or over half of the 
birds examined. This fact suggests that if the majority of the insects 
preyed upon are noxious, the benefits conferred by the bird greatly 
outweighs the injury inflicted. 

Coining, then, to the economic status of the insects devoured, it 
appears from the results of the examination of 226 stomachs that 3.37 
percent of the bird's food consists of ground beetles, fireflies, and 
ladybirds, which usually are considered beneficial ; 2.56 percent is 
composed of wasps, ants, bees, etc., some of which are very useful, 
some innocuous or harmful; and 1.17 percent is made up of a great 
number of unrelated items, largely of neutral import, which, owing 
to the fact that they are rarely eaten, have little significance. Thus 
58.75 percent, or nearly three-fifths of the entire food, is composed al- 
most wholly of insects which are a constant menace to agriculture. 

Of the above classes the beneficial kinds deserve first consideration. 
The most important among them numerically are fireflies (Lam- 
pyrida?), which are almost uniformly carnivorous, both as larva? and 
as adults. Since they do much to check the increase of many other 
insects, the destruction of large numbers would be injurious. Fifty- 
two of the grosbeaks examined had fed upon fireflies to the extent of 
2.38 percent of the whole food. Both adults and larva? were captured, 
from 5 to 19 of the former and from 12 to 30 of the latter being found 
in some stomachs. 

Among other useful insects which are attacked by the blackhead 
are the ground beetles (Carabida?). Xineteen grosbeaks ate them, 
and they amount to 0.99 percent of the food. Since so few of these 
beetles are captured and as certain of them at times feed upon plants, 
the injury is too slight to be noticed. 

Three black-headed grosbeaks ate small ladybird beetles which prey 
upon scale insects and plant lice, two of them securing specimens of 
an Australian coccinellid (Rhizobius ventralis, fig. 33). which was 
introduced into California for the express purpose of destroying scale 
insects. If the grosbeak destroyed many of these beetles, the bird 
would have to be given a black mark, but when it is considered that 
the blackhead feeds upon scale insects a large part of the time (more 
than a fifth of its food consisting of scales), it is surprising that so 
few of the ladybirds are devoured. 

Considerable liking, however, was shown for another group, the 
Hymenoptera, part of which at least are beneficial. The most useful 



members of this order are the parasitic Hymenoptera, which lay 
their eggs in the eggs or young of other insects. Remains of insects 
of this class from the stomach of one grosbeak were identified and 
they amounted to 22 percent of its contents. Two bees were found 
in another stomach, one of which was a worker honeybee. These 
are the only beneficial species of Hymenoptera from stomachs of 
this grosbeak positively identified, but it is probable that many of 
the unidentified forms belong in the same category. In all, 58 gros- 
beaks fed upon wasps, bees, and ants, very many of which selected 
large wasps, which were most probably workers of some social 
species the loss of which would not 
be noticed. Eleven blackheads ate 
ants, including both pupse and 
adults, for which the birds are to 
be commended, as many ants are 
prejudicial to the interests of man. 

Summing up the relations of the 
black-headed grosbeak to beneficial 
insects, Hymenoptera constitute 2.56 
percent of the food, not all of 
which, as just noted, is to be set 
down against the bird. The wholly 
useful fireflies amount to 2.38 per- 
cent, the mainly beneficial ground 
beetles to about 1 percent, while the 
ladybirds are a mere trace. Thus 
only about 5 percent, or a little 
more, of the bird's food consists of 
insects the destruction of which is 
prejudicial to the welfare of man. 
Even were the bird not useful other- 
wise, this showing would hardly jus- 
tify reprisals. 

As a matter of fact, however, the 
blackhead is far from useless, since the remainder of the animal food, 
which is fully 11 times the bulk of the useful insects, consists of pests 
upon some of which no other bird is known to prey so extensively. 
Beetles of various families constitute about half the bulk of these 
harmful insects, and 28.71 percent of the total food. A much greater 
number of grosbeaks preyed upon leaf beetles (Chrysomelida?) than 
any other family, these composing 17.98 per cent of the diet. One 
hundred and seventy-two blackheads, or almost four-fifths of the 
total number examined, captured leaf beetles, which are said to in- 
clude among their ranks more enemies of crops, shade trees, and 
ornamental plants than any other family of beetles. 

Pig. 33. — An Australian ladybird 
(Rhizobius ventralis). (From Mar- 
latt, Bureau of Entomology.) 


While this unmistakable preference for the often pungently fla- 
vored Chrysomelidse is remarkable, it is still more surprising that 
of the 172 birds 103 selected a single species, the California flower- 
beetle {Diabrotica soror, almost indistinguishable from D. 12-punc- 
tata, fig. 26). This insect, according to Prof. Vernon L. Kellogg," 
" does great damage as an adult by eating into the flower buds of 
roses, chrysanthemums, and a host of others, the larvse feeding on 
the roots of alfalfa, chrysanthemums, and many other plants." 
Prof. E. J. Wickson adds, 6 it " is sometimes very injurious to early 
fruit by eating into it when ripe. The insect also eats leaves and 
blossoms. As the insect attacks the fruit just as it is ready to pick, 
it is impossible to apply any disagreeable or poisonous spray." 

In connection with the latter testimony it is of interest to recall 
that the early fruits are the ones that the bird also injures most 
severely. Although less than 4 percent of the food, strictly speak- 
ing, can be called early fruit, and the total amount of cultivated fruit 
eaten during the bird's stay in California is only about 12 percent, 
the fruit-destroying flower-beetle, which it is impossible for man to 
combat effectually, constitutes more than 14 percent. In view of this 
fact alone, it would seem that the hand raised with deadly intent 
against the grosbeak when pilfering fruit may well be stayed. The 
beetles, though not so easy to see as the grosbeak, are present in 
countless hordes and busy at their destructive work. But the gros- 
beak finds and consumes more of them by actual bulk than of culti- 
vated fruit. Furthermore, in view of the fact that 103 out of 226 
black-headed grosbeaks preyed upon the flower-beetle, often securing 
from 8 to 21 each, and that 14.08 percent of the bird's entire food 
consists of these insects, it can be unhesitatingly stated that the black- 
head is one of the most important checks upon this pest. 

While the grosbeak does not destroy any other insect to anything 
like the same extent that it does the flower-beetle, nevertheless it 
shows a considerable liking for some other leaf-beetles. Seventeen 
grosbeaks fed upon a species {Melasoma scripta) that is fond of the 
foliage of willows and poplars, and 15 devoured a dock-inhabiting 
leaf -beetle (Gastroidea) , which sometimes eats pine needles; from 
9 to 33 of these were found in a single stomach. About 37 grosbeaks 
ate leaf-beetles which could not be specifically identified. 

The closely related family of long-homed wood-borers (Ceram- 
bycidse) furnishes 2.29 percent of the bird's fare, and since the longi- 
corns contain among their ranks numerous disastrous pests, the bird 
must be commended even for the moderate liking for them it displays. 
Click-beetles (Elateridse) , which in the larval state are known as 

°American Insects, 1905, p. 280. 

& California Fruits and How to Grow Them, 1900, pp. 454-455. 


wireworms, were devoured by 30 black-headed grosbeaks, but con- 
stitute only 0.77 percent of the food. Weevils also are sparingly 
consumed, which is in contrast to the avidity shown for them by 
most insect-eating birds. Twenty-five of the present collection of 
blackheads obtained specimens of these queer snouted beetles, but 
they compose less than 1 percent of the subsistence. 

Bronzy wood-borers (Buprestida?) were captured by 8 grosbeaks, 
pine-feeding species being identified. Lamellicorn beetles (Scara- 
bseidse) fell a prey to 10 birds, but no important species were 
secured. A few blackheads obtained representatives of other coleop- 
terous famlies, such as rove-beetles (Staphylinicla?), darkling beetles 
(Tenebrionidse), and whirligig beetles (Gyrinidse), one of which 
was found in a single stomach, though how the bird secured this 
aquatic species is a mystery. A quick tiger-beetle (Cicindela) also 
was found in a single stomach, and hence, although beneficial, it 
may be passed by without comment. 

Coleopterous larvae were eaten by 7 birds, 2 of which had secured 
representatives of the family Nitidulidse. As these larvae are too 
minute to have been eaten intentionally, and since they feed on decay- 
ing fruit, their presence among the stomach contents shows that the 
grosbeak also sometimes eats decayed fruit. Some of the fruit pulp, 
therefore, which could not be identified, but which was provisionally 
reckoned against the bird, is thus proven to have no value. 

Grasshoppers, which are eaten by birds almost universally, are 
neglected by this species, as they are also by the rose-breasted gros- 
beak. Only 7 of the 226 blackheads examined had eaten them, and 
they constitute only 0.25 percent of the subsistence. Nevertheless, 
the black-headed grosbeak is included among the enemies of the 
Rocky Mountain locust by Samuel Aughey, who examined 2 speci- 
mens, one of which had eaten 8, the other 17 locusts. 

Notwithstanding the blackhead is rather whimsical about a grass- 
hopper ration, it shares the taste of most other birds for caterpillars, 
and it devours them and their chrysalids to the extent of 9 percent 
of its food. Spines and hairs, popularly supposed to be abhorred by 
birds, do not deter the blackhead, and sometimes all that is left in the 
stomach to tell of the capture of caterpillars is a mass of thorns and 
spines. Exactly 100 black-headed grosbeaks fed upon lepidopterous 
insects, 70 of them choosing caterpillars and 30 cocoons and chry- 
salids. It is among remains of the latter that we find representa- 
tives of the most important species in the order — the codling moth 
(fig 34). This pest is said to cause a loss of not less than $10,000,000 
annually to the fruit growers of the United States. Inasmuch as the 
insect has no important parasites, its feathered enemies should be 
all the more appreciated, and it is safe to say that, with the probable 
exception of woodpeckers, the blackhead is the equal of any of them. 



The codling moth is accessible to the grosbeak in two stages of its 
development, namely, when the larvae are seeking a place to hibernate 
or pupate, as the case may be, and when they are in the chrysalis 
stage. By no means all of the birds examined had access to the 
species, yet 25 were successful in finding the pupse or larvse, and 
secured from 1 to 29 individuals, averaging about 5 each. It ap- 
pears, therefore, that the grosbeak makes good use of its limited op- 
portunities, and we agree with Professor Beal a that the " bird that 
helps to destroy this * * * insect, the curse of * * * apple 
culture, will be hailed as a blessing in spite of any shortcomings it 
may have.'' 

Second in importance only to the above pest are cankerworms. 

Fig. 34. Codling moth (Carpocapsa pomoneUa) . (From Simpson, Bureau of Entomology.) 

The spring cankerworm (Paleacrita vernata, fig'. 35), which is re- 
sponsible for a great deal of damage in apple orchards, constitutes 6 
percent of the grosbeak's food in May. While this amount is not 
large, it is nevertheless worthy of note, since all of it is consumed 
when the earliest broods are developing. 

Only one other order of insects contributes largely to the sub- 
sistence of the black-headed grosbeak — the true bugs, Heteroptera- 
Homoptera. Among minor items of the order the Heteroptera col- 
lectively form 1.05 percent of the diet, plant bugs, together with 
members of the squash-bug and stink-bug families and unidentified 
forms, being eaten by 18 birds. A miscellaneous assemblage from 

a Yearbook Dept. Agr., 1904, p. 248. 



Spring cankerworm 

{Paleacrita rernata). (From 
Riley, Bureau of Entomol- 

the other group (Homoptera), including leaf and tree hoppers, plant 
lice, and cicadas, was distributed among 9 of the grosbeaks examined, 
and composes a little more than 0.5 percent of the total food. Xext 
is the family of scale insects (Coccida?), which from an economic 
standpoint is the most important element of the black-headed gros- 
beak's food. Scale insects were fed upon 
by all but 81 of the 226 birds examined. 

The destructiveness of these insects need 
not be explained to anyone in the western 
fruit-growing region, where the disastrous 
effects of their presence have been keenly 
felt for many }^ears, longer in fact than in 
any other part of the country. Suffice it to 
say that scale insects cause more trouble and 
loss to fruit growers than all other pests 
combined, and the damage from them is to be reckoned by millions of 

The black-headed grosbeak evinces a distinct preference for the 
most widely distributed and abundant scale insect on the coast — the 
black olive scale (Saissetia olea?,&g. 36) the, importance of which 
the following notes from the writings of Prof. 
E. J. Wickson, of the University of California, 
will serve to show. It affects both citrus and 
deciduous trees, but is especially troublesome 
to the olive, and it will spread quickly to orna- 
mental plants and vines. It is a very difficult 
scale to subdue, and in spite of the fact that 
immense numbers are killed by parasites it is 
still a grievous pest. This insect constitutes 
20.32 per cent of the grosbeak's entire food, 
being eaten by 123 birds, many of which had 
secured from 12 to 32 scales each. If this serv- 
ice alone is not sufficient to atone for all the 
bird's depredations on fruit, the latter must be 
held at an exceedingly high price. 

Moreover, all has not yet been said in the 
bird's favor. It does not confine itself to the 
black olive scale alone, but at times probably preys extensively on 
other species. Sixteen other grosbeaks consumed enough scales to 
make up 2.26 per cent of the total food. Among the scales they ate 
are the brown apricot scale (Eulecanium armeniacum) and the frosted 
scale (E. pruinosum) , both of considerable economic importance. 

- Black olive 
scale (Saissetia olew) . 
(From Marlatt, Bureau 
of Entomology.) 


The remaining constituents of the animal food have slight per- 
centage value. Fifteen grosbeaks devoured spiders or their cocoons, 
these items amounting to 0.34 percent of the entire regimen. Among 
other substances of little importance are snails, eaten by 14 birds, 
various unidentified insect pupse by 10, eggshells by 5, and flies by 
2 ; and, most remarkable for a bird of the blackhead's feeding habits, 
a bit of bone and the remains of a small fish were found in a single 
stomach each. 

Mineral Matter. 

The average percentage of mineral matter in the stomachs of the 
whole number of birds examined is 2.35. The nestlings of 2 or 3 
days' age had none; those of a week, 6.57 percent; and those of 2 
weeks, only 3 in number, however, had 2.33 percent. 


We are fortunate in having a fair amount of material to illustrate 
the food habits of the nestling black-headed grosbeaks. The nestlings 
at hand are readily divisible into three groups, separated both by age 
and character of the diet. Ten, comprising two broods of 3 each and 
one of 4, which were collected at the age of 2 and 3 days, had been 
fed animal matter exclusively. Seven, made up of two broods, num- 
bering 3 and 4 individuals, respectively, had reached the age of 7 and 
8 days, at which period a small amount, namely, 2.1 percent, of vege- 
table food had been introduced into the dietary, while 3 scattered 
fledgelings of a fortnight's growth consumed an average of 13.3 per- 
cent of vegetable substances, mainly fruit. 

Two-thirds of the food of the youngest or entirely insectivorous 
group consisted of caterpillars, much over half of which, to wit, 37.2 
percent, was spring ,cankerworms (Paleacrita vernata, fig. 35). In 
addition, 18 percent was composed of pupae of the codling moth (fig. 
34), which, indeed, were fed to part or all of each brood, including 8 
of the 10 nestlings. If the habit of feeding these important pests, 
on the scale here indicated, to nestlings, whose never-ceasing demands 
for food are proverbial, is general, the amount of destruction wrought 
in their ranks is almost incalculable. Besides the codling moth and 
cankerworm, the flower-beetle and black olive scale also figure in the 
diet of this lot of youngsters; and longicorn beetles, spiders, leaf- 
hoppers, other bugs, and ant pupse likewise were consumed. 

One brood of the second group, Avhich was just being initiated into 
the use of vegetable food, was given oats in the milk, while the other 
family was entirely carnivorous. More hard-bodied insects are fed 


at this age, beetles composing three -fourths of the whole diet, and 
over 23 percent was contributed by the flower-beetle alone. Black 
olive scales are most important among the remaining elements, 12 
percent being composed of these pests. Hymenoptera, caterpillars, 
spiders, and insect eggs also were taken, and each of the members of 
one brood had a few bits of eggshell in its stomach. 

Caterpillars again enter into the diet of the two-weeks old fledge- 
lings, composing 45 percent of the whole amount, 21 percent being 
cankerworms. Black olive scales are 7 percent, and beetles, includ- 
ing lamellicorns, ground and click beetles, compose 26 percent of the 
food, the remaining animal elements being Hymenoptera and snails. 
The vegetable matter, 13.3 percent of the whole food, consists of cher- 
ries, strawberries, blackberries, bits of wheat, a few seeds, and spires 
and wads of grass, which last-named articles curiously enough are 
found in the stomachs of many other nestling birds. 

The oldest fledgelings thus approximate more nearly in diet to that 
of the adults, even partaking of their fruit-eating habits. It is evi- 
dent also, from the study of nestling blackheads, that vegetable mat- 
ter is fed in gradually increasing quantities, corresponding, probably, 
either as cause or effect, to the growing muscular development of the 
stomach. Some grosbeaks observed by Professor Beal fed their nest- 
lings only two to five times per hour, but as the feeding was accom- 
plished by regurgitation it is probable that the stomachs of the young 
were practically filled during every visit to the nest. 

Reviewing, it has been noted above that the nestlings of the black- 
headed grosbeak are fed a great number of codling moth pupa?, cank- 
erworms, flower-beetles, and black olive scales, the destruction of 
which is greatly to the advantage of agriculture. When very young 
their food is entirely animal, and consists in great part of these 
grievous insect pests. 


Examination of 226 stomachs of the black-headed grosbeak, the 
majority of which were collected in California, shows that during six 
months' stay in its summer home the bird consumes on the average 
34.15 percent of vegetable and 65.85 percent of animal food. 

Reports that the bird damages cultivated fruit are fully sustained 
by stomach examinations, figs and cherries appearing to be the kinds 
most injured. From 10 to 15 per cent of the food consists of culti- 
vated fruits;- a slightly smaller amount is weed seed, while the pro- 
portion of grain devoured is trifling. 

It has been brought out that small orchards may be economically 
protected by means of bird netting. Large orchards may be pro- 



tected in great measure by planting here and there suitable decoy 
trees, as mulberries. 

Aside from the. fact that ravages by the grosbeak may be pre- 
vented or greatly reduced without destroying the birds, it is evident 
that their general services to agriculture are so valuable that their 
destruction is not to be considered. It is to be noted : First, that the 
animal food of the blackhead, consisting almost wholly of injurious 
insects, is practically twice the bulk of the vegetable food, or more 
than four times that portion which is pilfered from man. Second, 
that the bird could not possibly select insects more prejudicial to the 
interests of western horticulture than the ones forming its natural 
food. These include the codling moth, cankerworms, flower-beetles, 
and such scale insects as the frosted, apricot, and black olive scales. 
Finally, these formidable fruit destroyers alone, not to mention 20 
percent of other injurious insects, compose two-fifths of the entire 
amount of the black-headed grosbeak's food from April to September, 
or at least three times as much by actual bulk as the fruit consumed. 
In other words, for every quart of fruit eaten, more than 3 pints of 
black olive scales and more than a quart of flower-beetles, besides a 
generous sprinkling of codling moth pupse and cankerworms fall 
prey to this grosbeak. 



Oats (A vena sativa). 


| Wheat (Triticum vulgare), 


Fig (Ficus carica). 
Mulberry (Morus sp.). 
Strawberry (Fragaria vesca). 
Blackberry (Rubus sp.). 

Crabapple (Mains prunifoUa). 
Apricot (Prunus armeniaca). 
Cherry (Prunus cerasus). 
Prime (Prunus domestica). 


Juneberry (Amelanchicr sp.). 
Poison oak (Rhus diversiloba). 

Nightshade ( Solatium nigrum) 
Elderberry (Sambucus sp.). 


Dock (Rumex sp.). 

Smartweed (Polygonum sp.). 

Pigweed (Amarantlius sp.). 

Red maids (Calandrinia menziesi). 

Catchfly (Silene sp.). 

Chickweed (Alsine media). 
Cranesbill (Geranium sp.). 
Alfilaria (Erodium sp.). 
Bur clover (Medicago denticulatum) 
Milk thistle (Mariana mariniana). 




Tiger beetles (Cicindelidae) : 

Cicindela sp. 
Ground beetles (Carabidae) : 

Platynus variolatus. 
Whirligig beetles (Gyrinidae). 
Rove beetles ( Staphylinidae) . 
Ladybird beetles ( Coccinellidae ) : 

Psyllobora tcedata. 

Rliizobius ventralis. 
Click-beetles (Elateridae) : 

Megapenthes elegans. 
Bronzy wood-borers (Buprestidae) 

Buprestis Uneata. 

Buprestis fasciata langi. 

Acmwodera gibbula. 
Fireflies ( Lampyridae ) : 

Podabrus sp. 

Telephorus consors. 

Telephorus divisus. 

Lamellicorn beetles (Scarabaeidae) : 

Aphodius inquinatus. 

Euphoria sp. 
Long-horned beetles (Cerambycidae) : 

Leptura militaris. 
Leaf beetles ( Chrysonielidae ) : 

tiyneta albida. 

Gastroidea cyanea. 

Melasoma script a. 

Diabrotica soror. 

Diabrotica trivittata. 
Darkling beetles ( Tenebrionidse ) . 
Rhynchitidae : 

Deporaus glastinus. 
Scarred snout-beetles (Otiorhynchi- 
dae) : 

Scyth rop u s calif orn icu s. 
True snout-beetles (Curculionidae) : 

Dorytomus hispidus. 

Bar is sp. 

Balaninus sp. 


Cicadas (Cicadidse) : 

Cicada sp. 
Tree-hoppers ( Membracidae ) . 
Scale insects (Coccidae) : 

Saissetia olew. 

Eulecanium armeniacum. 

Eulecanium pruinosum. 

Leaf -hoppers ( Jassidae) . 

Jumping plant-lice (Psyllidae). 

Plant-lice ( Aphididae ) . 

Stink-bugs (Pentatomidae). 


Plant-bugs (Capsidae). 


Shcrt-horned grasshoppers (Acridiidae). 


Span worms ( Geoinetridae ) 
Paleacrita vernata. 

Leaf- rollers (Tortricidae) : 
Carpocapsa pomonella. 

Apidae (Apis mellifera). 

Spiders (Araneida). 


I Rough-headed ants ( My rmicidae ) . 


Borboridae (Borborus sp.). 


| Snails (Gastropoda). 



((luiraca cwrulea, Plate IV.) 


While less strikingly colored than other grosbeaks, this species 
equals them in beauty. The general color of the male is ultramarine, 
but the tail and wings are black, with bars of chestnut crossing the 
latter. The female is much duller. Brownish above and below, with 
a lighter throat, she bears a marked superficial resemblance to the 
female cowbird, and the massive bill is the only conspicuous feature 
that serves to distinguish the two. 

This is the smallest of the grosbeaks, and occupies a wider range 
in the United States than any of the others. There are two sub- 
species of blue grosbeaks, the western one breeding from southern- 
most Mexico to northern California and southern South Dakota and 
the eastern from the gulf coast to southern Pennsylvania and south- 
eastern Nebraska. The two races merge in eastern Texas, Oklahoma, 
and Kansas. In winter both withdraw entirely from the United 

During the breeding season the blue grosbeak is locally abundant 
in the southern and western parts of its range, being in some places 
a familiar garden and orchard bird. In the eastern part of the Mis- 
sissippi Valley, however, and in the Atlantic States, it is shy, retiring,- 
and generally rare. 

In the latter regions the nest is usually placed in a low bush or 
vine in a thicket; but where the birds are more common they build 
in fruit trees or even in cultivated ornamental plants about houses. 
Everywhere the species nests late. The eggs are 3 or 4 in number 
and are bluish white; two broods are raised in the south and one in 
the north. In common with all its relatives, this handsome bird is a 
good singer, and its song, though weak, suggests the rosebreast's 
lovely carol. Its pleasing song and engaging appearance have made 
the grosbeak a favorite cage-bird among the southern Creoles, who 
know it as the " blue pop." 


The present investigation of the food habits of this species con- 
cerns only summer residents of the United States. Fifty-one stom- 
achs have been examined, which were collected in every month from 
April to September, inclusive, and in seven States and the District 
of Columbia. Of the food they contained 67.6 percent is animal 
matter and 32.4 percent vegetable. No month is represented by more 
than 19 birds ; hence the results obtained are by no means as reliable 
as could be desired. However, as the economic relations of the blue 
grosbeak are almost entirely unknown, even these tentative findings 
have a distinct value. 

Bui. 32, Biological Survey, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture. 


4<,/j Qyau* ®*rfc 

Blue Grosbeaks. 

[Top figure, adult male; middle figure, immature male; bottom figure, female.] 



Vegetable Food. 

The proper valuation of the vegetable elements of a bird's food 
is of great importance, since upon this point largely depends the 
attitude of the agriculturist toward the bird. The main question 
is, Does the blue grosbeak appropriate an undue amount of the prod- 
uct of field, orchard, and garden crops? 

Vegetable substances consumed by the blue grosbeak and consti- 
tuting 32.4 percent of its food may be classified as follows: Grain, 
14.25 percent; weed seed, 18.05 percent; fruit, 0.06 percent; and 
miscellaneous, 0.04 percent. 


From present information it appears that cultivated fruits are not 
molested by the blue grosbeak. All writers agree that the little 
fruit eaten is wild, a conclusion supported by the results of the present 
examination. Only two birds, both young, had eaten fruit of any 
kind, and in each case it consisted of a few bits of blackberry, un- 
doubtedly wild. 


Grain constitutes 14.25 percent of the food of the birds examined. 
Wheat was eaten by 6 of the total number, and amounts to 8.33 per- 
cent of the entire subsistence. Corn was eaten by 4 birds and is 4.87 
percent of the food, while oats, which form 1.05 percent, were con- 
sumed by only 2 of the 51 birds. Probably all this grain was ob- 
tained from cultivated crops. 

One grosbeak, collected in a wheat field in June, had eaten enough 
of the milky cereal to make up 40 percent of its stomach contents. 
Three others from the same region in the same and the succeeding 
two months had devoured wheat, which shows that this grain is 
relished even in the riper stages. 

Apparently the corn in the stomachs also came from the standing 
crop, and while the blue grosbeak seems too small to be an active 
depredator of such a well-protected grain, yet with its powerful beak 
there is no doubt that it can as readily shear through the enveloping 
husks as crack the kernels themselves. Eef erring to this latter point, 
Wilson says of a captive bird : " I fed it on Indian corn, which it 
seemed to prefer, easily breaking with its powerful bill the hardest 
grains." Notwithstanding this the bird does little damage. At all 
events, no complaints of injury have been made. 

There is testimony, however, that the bird does some mischief in 
oat fields. Doctor Fisher, of the Biological Survey, has seen flocks 
feeding upon this cereal in Nebraska and in California, and the same 
habit has been observed in Virginia. In general this occurs late in 
summer. After the nesting season blue grosbeaks change their 
18848— Bull. 32—08 6 


habits greatly. The once timorous birds leave off their shyness; the 
isolated families assemble, and flocks, usually small, but sometimes 
large, raid the grain fields. Oats and rice especially are injured by 
them. Concerning the effect of the blue grosbeak upon rice in Louis- 
iana, Mr. George Beyer a says : " In the Florida parishes * * * 
it is generally called ' rice bird.' Flocks of thousands descend upon 
the ripe rice during August and September." As noted above, oats 
were found in 2 stomachs examined during the present investigation, 
rice in none. 

Summary. — Only 11 of the 51 blue grosbeaks examined had eaten 
grain, from which it is evident that this food is not specially sought, 
even when accessible. Grain constitutes 14.25 per cent of the total 
food, but only one bird ate grain exclusively. Considering only the 
11 cereal feeders, we find they were satisfied with a fare of half 
grain, and preferred to eat insects arid other food along with it. It 
seems, therefore, that in summer this grosbeak does not evince a de- 
cided taste for grain, and, being widely and sparingly distributed, 
it is inconceivable that noticeable loss can be caused by it. 

That the reverse is true later in the year is well established, but 
the injury then committed seems to be of no great importance, or it 
would have attracted more attention. It is certain that the blue 
grosbeak is not for an instant to be ranked with such well-known 
grain pests as the bobolink and some of the blackbirds, and the cases 
of serious injurj^ attributable to it are clearly of rare occurrence and 
brief duration. 

Moreover, during by far the greater part of the bird's stay in the 
United States its food habits are decidedly beneficial, and it con- 
sumes almost five times as great a bulk of injurious insects as of 
grain. Without doubt the farmer could afford to pay for the de- 
struction of these insects with grain in the reverse ratio and yet 
make a large profit by the bird's services. 


Weed seeds are consumed by the blue grosbeak during every month 
of its stay in the United States. They constitute 18.05 per cent of 
the total food, and thus are given preference over all other items of 
the vegetable regimen. Not a great variety of seeds are devoured, 
and more of foxtail (fig. 37) and bindweed (fig. 21) are taken than 
any others. It is well known that these weeds are among the most 
troublesome in America, striving constantly to overtop and crowd out 
cutivated plants, while bindweed during its earlier stages harbors 
the corn root-louse, one of the most injurious of grain pests. Prac- 
tically all birds to any degree vegetarian feed upon the seeds of these 

"Avifauna Louisiana, New Orleans, 1900, p. 34. 


weeds, a work of which the blue grosbeak assumes a proper share 
and the value of which in the aggregate is immense. 

Before leaving the subject of vegetable food, it should be mentioned 
that one blue grosbeak, collected in the District of Columbia, had fed 
largely upon the seeds of wild rice (Zizania aquatica). This plant 
is an important source of food for many larger birds, especially ducks 
and geese, but is not generally sought by the smaller species. 

Animal Food. 

The blue grosbeak consumes more than twice as much animal as 
vegetable food, and it consists of snails, spiders, and various insects. 
The latter constitute 65.7 out of 67.6 percent, the entire amount, and 
while comprising for the most part injurious species, include a few 
forms generally considered useful. These will be discussed at once. 

A certain family of ground-inhabiting beetles, the Carabida?, on 
account of their predaceous habits, are 
usually classed as beneficial. They have been 
detected, however ; feeding upon vegetable 
matter, and in many places even upon culti- 
vated crops. These facts should make us 
slow to condemn a bird for picking up a few 
of them. The present species manifests very 
little liking for ground-beetles, onlv 4 birds 

e M . A . to b . _ . ■' /; _ Fig. 37.— Seeds of green fox- 

of the entire number having taken them, and tali (chwtochioa viridis). 
in no case did they constitute more than 10 ( From Hillman > Nevada 

■l •- ■ , , , , Experiment Station.) 

per cent of the stomach contents. 

One other predaceous insect was captured. This was a robber fly 
(Asilidse). Flies of this family capture grasshoppers, beetles, other 
flies and bees, and at times do considerable mischief among honey 
bees. They are not wholly beneficial, therefore, although probably 
the balance is in their favor. If it is the rule, however, as appears 
from the present examination, that not more than 1 blue grosbeak in 
50 takes a robber fly, the resulting damage need not disturb us. 

Besides the insects of predatory habits, there are others which are 
useful as parasites. None of these were taken directly by any of the 
blue grosbeaks examined, but about 20 eggs of a parasite, probably 
a tachina fly, were attached to the body of a purslane caterpillar eaten 
by one of the birds. Had these parasitic flies been allowed to com- 
plete development they would have attacked and destroyed other 
caterpillars, but probably not so many as the grosbeak which fed upon 
them, one-tenth of whose food would have consisted of these creatures. 

Caterpillars and adult lepidoptera (moths) compose 9.77 percent 
of the food of the blue grosbeak. The purslane caterpillar (fig. 38) 
mentioned above is eaten by adults and is fed also to the nestlings. 



Ordinarily this insect is harmless, but occasionally it attacks garden 
and fruit crops, especially the sugar beet. Another caterpillar also, 
the cotton cutworm (Prodenia ornithogalli, fig. 9), which attacks 
the latter crop as well as the tomato and cotton, is devoured by the 
blue grosbeak. Four birds, taken in the cotton fields of Texas in 
May, had eaten 9 cotton cutworms, which constituted more than 40 
percent of their food. Many other caterpillars also of the same 
family (Sphingidse), as the purslane feeder, and two moths were 
consumed by the blue grosbeaks examined. Because of the injurious 

Fig. 38. — Purslane caterpillar (Deilephila Hneata). 


(From Chittenden, Bureau of Ento- 

grosbeak is to be 

habits of these insects their destruction by the 

The true bugs (Hemiptera) constitute another group of insects, 
mainly injurious, and all of them eaten by the grosbeak are destruc- 
tive. These include members of the " squash -bug family (Coreidse), 
stink-bug family (Pentatomidse), tree-hoppers (Membracidse), and 
cicadas or harvest flies (Cicadidse). One blue grosbeak from South 
Dakota had eaten 3 of the latter, which composed 94 percent of its 
stomach contents. 


Injurious beetles comprise 24.4 percent of the grosbeak's food, 
almost half (11.25 percent) of which amount consists of members of 
the May beetle family (Scarabseida?). Adult June bugs, and their 
larvae, the white grubs, were devoured by some birds to the exclusion 
of other food, and 1 grosbeak had eaten 3 of the common dung- 
beetles (Aphodius fimetarius). Weevils are next in importance 
among beetles, and 7.18 percent of the bird's seasonal food was made 
up of these pests. Many of them were scarred snout-beetles (Otio- 
rhynchidse) and curculios (Curculionidse) ; some of them certainly 
were injurious species. Two grosbeaks selected the conspicuously 
red and black colored billbug (Rhodobmnus 13-punctatus). each 
eating 2. Leaf -beetles (Chrysomelidse), wood-borers (Buprestidse), 
click-beetles (Elateridse), and long-horned beetles (Cerambycida?), 
nearly all of which are injurious, were also devoured. 

The most important element of the animal food, however, is grass- 
hoppers. Crickets and long and short horned grasshoppers are 
eagerly consumed, composing 27.2 percent of the total food. Thirty- 
two of the 51 
blue grosbeaks 
ate them, several 
taking nothing 
else. They are fed 
to the nestlings 

in generous meas- 
ure qti/I wif>»rvn+ Fig. 39. — Lesser migratory locust (Melanoplus atlanis). (From 
ure, ana Wimout Lugger, Minnesota Experiment Station.) 

doubt are the 

most important single article of diet. During one of the historic out- 
breaks of the Rocky Mountain locust, the blue grosbeak was found to 
feed on other grasshoppers among the swarming hordes, and it is cer- 
tain that the pest itself was not overlooked. A very closely-related 
species, called in contradistinction the lesser migratory locust (Me- 
lanoplus atlanis, fig. 39), has been identified from the stomachs exam- 

But little insect food in addition to that above discussed is con- 
sumed. A fly or a wasp is rarely secured, and one ant and a saw- 
fly larva were eaten. Besides insects, a small amount of other animal 
matter was present in the stomachs. Spiders or their egg-sacs were 
eaten by 2 birds and snails by 9. The latter may be taken in lieu 
of gravel. 

Mineral Matter. 

Only 2 adult blue grosbeaks out of a total of 38 had taken inor- 
ganic mineral matter, and the percentage of such material is only 
0.63. Of 13 nestlings, 7 contained mineral matter in quantity suffi- 
cient to make the average for the whole group 8.3 percent, which is 


more than 13 times as much as the old birds take. So wide a dis- 
crepancy would seem to indicate that there is great difference between 
old and young birds in the need for this material. 


Among the blue grosbeaks examined are 13 young collected in 
Kansas in July and August. Eight of these are nestlings, and 5 
are young just out of the nests, but still being fed by their parents. 
The percentage of animal food for the 13 young birds is 99.08; of 
vegetable, 0.92. 

Grasshoppers constitute 74.1 percent of the food. Among them 
are included the lesser migratory locust {Melanoplus atlanis) and a 
large coral-winged locust (Hippiscus, fig. 40). The remains of as 
many as 16 short-horned locusts were obtained from one stomach, 
while another contained 14. Caterpillars, among them the purslane 
sphinx, compose 10.7 percent of the subsistence of the nestlings, and 

Fig. 40. — Coral-winged locust (Hippiscus tuberculatus). (From Lugger, Minnesota Ex- 
periment Station.) 

snails 10 percent. The remainder of the animal food consists of a 
weevil, a long-horned beetle, a ground beetle, a robber fly, and the 
eggs of a tachina fly, which were on the purslane caterpillar. It is 
curious that so large a proportion of the beneficial insects consumed 
should be in the stomachs of nestlings, but it may be that these items, 
which ordinarily are rarely taken, are hurriedly gathered only be- 
cause of the insistent demands of the hungry young. 

The vegetable food consists of a few unidentified vegetable fila- 
ments and some slight remains of blackberries in two stomachs ; this 
was the only fruit eaten by any of the birds, young or old. 

' Summary. 

Present data shows that the food of the blue grosbeak is 67.6 per- 
cent animal and 32.4 vegetable. 

Grain constitutes 14.25 percent of the diet, but on account of the 
scattered distribution of the birds, no appreciable damage is done 
during most of the summer. Later, when they forage in flocks, they 
are said to do considerable injury. But, as noted above, the birds 
consume twice as much animal as vegetable matter, and even if all 
of the latter had been grain, instead of less than half, as is actually 
the case, it would have been paid for many times over. 



Among the important insect pests eaten by the blue grosbeak are 
grasshoppers, weevils, the purslane sphinx, and the cotton cutworm. 
The species deserves protection for its destruction of grasshoppers 
alone, and when its food habits are considered in their entirety the 
showing unquestionably is greatly in favor of the bird. 



Corn (Zea mays). 
Oats (Avena sativa). 

Wheat (Triticum vulgare). 
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa). 


Crab-grass (Panicum sp.). 
Yellow foxtail (Chwtochloa glauca.) 
Green foxtail ( ChcetocMoa viridis ) . 
Wild rice (Zizania aquatica). 

Rush grass (Sporobolus sp.), 
Smartweed (Polygonum sp.). 
Blackberry (Rubas sp.). 


Ground-beetles (Carabidae). 
Click-beetles (Elateridae). 
Leaf -beetles (Chrysomelidse). 
Bronzy wood-borers (Buprestidae). 
Lamellicorn beetles (Scarabaeidae) 

Aphodius flmetarius. 

Lachnosterna sp. 

Long-horned beetles (Cerambycidae) : 

Hippopsis lemniscata. 
Scarred snout-beetles ( Otiorhynchida? ) . 
True snout-beetles (Curculionidse). 
Bill-bugs (Calandridse): 

Rhodobcenus 13-punctatus. 


Cicadas (Cicadidae) : 

Cicada sp. 
Tree-hoppers (Membracidoe). 

Squash-bugs (Coreidae). 
Stink-bugs (Pentatomidae), 

Short-horned grasshoppers 
idae) : 

Hippiscus sp. 
Melarioplus atlanis. 




Crickets (Gryllidae) 
Gryllus sp. 

grasshoppers (Locus- 

Hawk-moths (Sphingidse) 
Deilephila lineata. 


Owlet-moths (Noctuidae) : 
Proden ia ornithogalli. 


Smooth-headed ants (Formicidae). 
Sawflies ( Tenthredinidae ) . 

Robber flies (Asilidae). 
Tachina flies (Tachinidae). 

Spiders (Araneida), 


J Snails (Gastropoda) 




As in the previous pages mention is made of the fact that gros- 
beaks to some extent feed on parasitic insects, and as many other 
birds have the same habit, certain phases of the subject are here 
briefly discussed. Parasites are useful to man because they prey 
upon and reduce the numbers of injurious insects. Hence to the 
extent that birds diminish the number of parasites they are inimical 
to man's interests. But there is another aspect to the interrelations 
of birds, parasites, and injurious insects. The attacks of parasitic in- 
sects, however numerous they may be, do not result in the immediate 
death of their victims, since time is required for the development of 
the larvae within or upon the body of the hosts. Hence the latter, 
after receiving the eggs which ultimately are to prove fatal, some- 
times continue their depredations, and may in a few days ruin 
the season's crop. Under these circumstances the parasites do no 
immediate good, though they serve to prevent increase of the species 
attacked. It is quite otherwise with birds, which instantly stop 
depredations by killing the insects responsible for them. Often in 
a few days birds extirpate a pest over a limited area, and the crop, 
freed from its enemies, makes successful growth. It is true that at 
the same time all eggs and larvae of parasites present in the host 
insects also are destroyed. Though this is regrettable, the effects 
of the loss of the parasites must be regarded as of secondary im- 
portance, since the main purpose — getting rid of the pests — is accom- 

Precisely the same result follows the destruction of cocoons, the 
burning of caterpillar nests, fumigation by hydrocyanic gas (which 
is exceedingly destructive to all life), and wholesale killing by contact 
sprays (kerosene, whale-oil soaps, and the like). These methods of 
destroying insects are widely recommended and extensively used, re- 
sulting in the indiscriminate destruction of beneficial and injurious 
insects, foe and friend alike. Moreover, there is no doubt that in 
spite of their indiscriminate effect, these practices result in great good. 
As stated above, birds are chargeable with similar destruction of use- 
ful insects along with the injurious, but it is worthy of note that the 
effects of their feeding have not been judged from the same stand- 
point nor given the benefit of doubt accorded to the work of artificial 
agencies. However, since it has been suggested that birds may so re- 
duce the number of parasitic insects as seriously to restrict their bene- 
ficial services, it may be profitable to inquire into the facts of the case. 
There is no record of an instance in which noticeable injury has been 
caused through the destruction of parasites by birds, and there is 
much evidence going to show that this never happens. First, taking 


up the order Diptera, to which belong the tachina parasites (such as 
were found in the stomach of one blue grosbeak), the data now avail- 
able show that probably less than 3 percent of the food of birds in 
general consists of members of this order. And there is no reason to 
believe that parasitic forms of this or other orders are specially sought 
for by birds. Since the dipterous parasites are confined to three or 
four families of the three score in the United States, it is not likely 
that the part of the 3 percent of bird food they furnish results in 
much injury to agriculture. 

Turning to that most important group, the Hymenoptera, it is to 
be noted that many of them are small, some being extremely minute 
(as is the case with a large group of the most effective parasites, the 
chalcis flies), and these are very rarely found in bird stomachs. A 
few families of Hymenoptera (Chrysididse, Trigonalidse, Sapygidae, 
and Mutillidae) are characteristically parasitic on other and useful 
members of the order. The destruction of any of these by birds (the 
cuckoo-flies are taken, at least occasionally) is a benefit. The same 
must be said of the capture of many species belonging to other fam- 
ilies which are guilty of the same practice. They parasitize their 
beneficial relatives, often destroying a large proportion of them. 
Moreover, even the species usually beneficial do not always stick to 
their roles, but sometimes parasitize species having the same as their 
own normal relation to the host. All of these things tend to mitigate 
the injury done by birds that feed on Hymenoptera. The facts at 
hand show that, excluding ants (which are in no way concerned with 
parasites), Hymenoptera compose not more than from 3 to 5 percent 
of bird food in general. Of the insects composing this percentage, ac- 
cording to our identifications, nonparasitic forms outnumber the para- 
sites in the proportion of about 4 to 1. Hence at most not more than 
1 percent of the food consumed by all the members of our avifauna 
consists of parasitic Hymenoptera, taken as free-moving forms. 

Proceeding now to the main point at issue, whether great numbers 
of parasites in the egg or larval state are eaten by birds along with 
the usual prey, the following statements can be made. The parasites 
in insect eggs (which include very many of the large super family 
Proctotrypoidea, and some others) are absolutely safe from the ma- 
jority of birds, only the smaller titmice, warblers, etc., searching much 
for eggs. Parasites also in the cocoons and chrysalids are compara- 
tively secure, as only few birds consume these objects. The parasites 
of all minute insects, like egg parasites, are exempt from danger, ex- 
cept from a certain contingent of the smaller birds. The parasites 
living upon medium-sized caterpillars, beetle larvae, and adult in- 
sects, however, run considerable risk of becoming bird food. But 
even members of this group are in a measure favored, since a good 
proportion of the caterpillars or other insects they infest are not 


likely to be eaten by birds, both because they are usually discolored 
or otherwise abnormal in appearance and because often they are in- 
active, and hence escape attention. It should be stated, however, that 
freshly parasitized individuals are of normal appearance, and 
whether or not they are recognized by birds, it is certain that in the 
stomach such caterpillars can not be distinguished from the unin- 

However, it is certain that, in spite of this difficulty of recog- 
nizing recently parasitized larvse, a well-defined tendency on the 
part of birds to avoid these doomed insects is shown by the wholly 
insignificant number found in which parasitism is evident. Only 
the one parasitized caterpillar mentioned above, and one other eaten 
by a hawk, have been found in more than 40,000 stomachs examined 
by the Biological Survey. Hence it would seem that serious diminu- 
tion in the ranks of parasites is much more logically explained by 
some other cause, such as the well-known pernicious activities of cer- 
tain hyperparasites, than by the attacks of predaceous foes. The 
following extract from "A Study of the Hymenopterous Parasites 
of the American Tent Caterpillar," by W. F. Fiske, serves to show the 
possibilities of this hyperparasitical activity. 

In 1896 it [the tent caterpillar] was exceedingly common, so much so as to 
attract attention all over the State, and it was consequently assumed that its 
parasites would also have increased to such an extent as to be a considerable 
factor in bringing about a more normal condition in 1897. But strangely 
enough this reasoning was found to be diametrically opposite to the facts of 
the case. In 1896 a great many caterpillars were destroyed by Limneria fugi- 
tive/, [a parasite], and numbers of the characteristic cocoons of this species were 
collected and bred at this station. These proved in their turn to be almost 
entirely the prey of Pimpla inquisitor [a hyperparasite], and the breeding 
cages in which the cocoons were confined becoming filled with the adults of the 
hyperparasite, it was mentioned in the report of the year, and given credit for 
the destruction of large numbers of tent caterpillars. Thus it was the Lim- 
neria which proved to be the real victim, and as its cocoons were rare the next 
year the primary host, Clisiocampa americana [the tent caterpillar], was indi- 
rectly but decidedly the gainer. 

As one season's observations succeeded another's this case from being an 
exception, as was at first thought, was found to be more nearly the rule. The 
comparative abundance of the tent caterpillars varied greatly, it is true, but 
this was obviously due to other and distinct causes than this under discussion, 
and only a certain percentage, varying considerably from one colony to another, 
or to a less degree between different localities, fell a prey to the hymenopterous 
parasites. The parasites as a body were found to exact a certain tithe of blood, 
so to speak, and this being obtained would proceed to fight over its possession, 
passing it from one to another, from parasite to hyperparasite, until often, per- 
haps, there would be little more than enough left of a single large caterpillar 
than that sufficient to support a single small Chalcid. 

It is evident from these statements that we need look no further 
for the enemies which so check the useful services of parasites. 

a Tech. Bull. 6, N. H. Agr. Exp. Sta., 1903, pp. 185-186. 


Comparisons of the usefulness of parasitic insects and of pre- 
daceous species, both insects and birds, have been made to the dis- 
paragement of the latter class and in consequence the benefits con- 
ferred by parasites have sometimes been exaggerated. But in weigh- 
ing the importance of these statements it should not be forgotten that 
essentially parasites are dependents. It is farthest from their object 
to exterminate their hosts, even in a limited area. This result, which 
in most cases means disaster to the parasite, is, on the other hand, of 
but little moment to predaceous insects or birds. The latter always 
have a wide range of prey and even if one food supply is exhausted 
usually there are others at hand. The best evidence that predaceous 
foes of insects are worthy of as high consideration as parasitic ones 
is afforded by the instance of the extermination, successively, by the 
ladybird, Novius cardinalis, of the cottony cushion scale in Califor- 
nia, of the fluted scale in South Africa, and of a congeneric scale in- 
sect in the gardens of Alexandria. Egypt. These are absolutely the 
most important services in destroying insects ever rendered to man 
and were accomplished by a predaceous enemy which is chargeable 
with the same lack of nice discrimination with respect to parasites 
attributed to birds. 

However, there is no necessity for belittling the services of either 
of the two great classes of pest destroyers. Both consume a certain 
proportion of insects directly injurious to man and it is more than 
likely that either would be hindered rather than helped by the 
absence of the other. Everything, indeed, points to the conclusion 
that from the standpoint of man's welfare the loss of either class 
would irreparably disturb the balance. What has been said by a 
noted entomologist concerning parasites, namely, that the presence 
of both parasites and hosts, continuing through thousands of years 
to the present, implies that an equilibrium is maintained enabling each 
to live, is just as true of predaceous enemies, both in relation to para- 
sites and to their common pre}^ There can be no doubt that, even 
under the greatly changed conditions induced by man, the inter- 
actions of these classes tend directly toward the establishment and 
maintenance of a balance. It is probable that this balance can be 
secured at a lower level in regard to number of individuals only by 
direct reduction of the injurious species by man, coupled with the 
best possible protection of both their predatory and parasitic enemies. 


With respect to food habits it appears that the grosbeaks form a 
group apart from the majority of the finch family, to which they be- 
long. The members of this group are by no means the extreme vege- 
tarians they are commonly supposed to be, since on the average they 
consume about 25 per cent of animal food. The grosbeaks, however, 


are even less exclusively vegetarian than others of the family and 
nearly half their food is animal. Moreover, the constituents of the 
animal dietaries of the two groups differ considerably. Nearly all 
finches hitherto examined have been found to avoid hairy caterpillars, 
but the grosbeaks eat them eagerly. True bugs generally are neglected 
by the smaller members of the sparrow tribe, while the grosbeaks con- 
sume on an average 7.25 percent of these strongly flavored insects. 
Further, while caged and hungry individuals of some of the smaller 
sparrows refused both the Colorado and three-lined potato beetles, 
cucumber and ladybird beetles, and also stinkbugs of the genus 
Euschistus, each of these insects is captured in the open by one or 
more, if not all, of the grosbeaks. In fact, the so-called protected 
fireflies, leaf beetles, and ladybirds, as also hairy caterpillars and the 
adaptively colored or distasteful bugs and scale insects, seem poorly 
defended, for all of them serve as grist for the grosbeak mill. A dif- 
ference between the vegetable dietaries of the grosbeaks and other 
sparrows is also worthy of notice. Weed seeds form half of the an- 
nual food of the latter group, while only one of the grosbeaks devours 
so large a proportion, the others consuming an average of about 18 

To the grosbeaks in particular, as to the sparrow family as a whole, 
general traits have been ascribed as characteristic which investigation 
fails to substantiate. For instance, the grosbeaks are found to have 
no special predilection for buds, notwithstanding popular opinion to 
the contrary. Then, too, it is generally considered that the massive 
grosbeak bill is especially designed to crack hard fruits and seeds, and 
it would appear certain that in some way it is related to peculiarities 
of food. Yet the smaller sparrows and the cowbirds, with much 
weaker bills, break all sorts of seeds as readily as the cardinal. In- 
deed, the food habits of the grosbeaks, as revealed by the present in- 
vestigation, offer no clue to the origin of the form of bill. Its great 
crushing capacity appears to be utilized only on rare occasions, one 
cardinal, for instance, out of 500 eating a hickory nut. Practically 
all the food eaten by grosbeaks seemingly could be manipulated just 
as readily by birds with comparatively slender beaks. It is true that 
the curiously curved beak of the parrot-bill may be useful in 
securing the much relished seeds of bur grass (Cenchrus), but 
the same kind of seeds is eaten also by the straight-beaked cardinal. 
No doubt there is an intimate connection between the size and form 
and the function of the grosbeak bill, but for the key apparently we 
must look to past conditions of environment, for its extraordinary 
size and shape appear to answer no present needs. 

Notwithstanding also the general similarity of bills, as well as of 
other points of structure, the five grosbeaks differ considerably in food 
habits. This divergence is beneficial to the birds, no doubt, when they 


occupy the same general territory, since it keeps them apart when 
foraging, each thus securing enough food without competing too 
strenuously with its neighbor. It is of great value also to man, be- 
cause the birds exact tribute from the whole field of his insect enemies. 

As would be expected, the cardinal and gray grosbeaks have some- 
what similar tastes. They rank highest of the group as seed eaters ; 
they consume little grain, capture a very small number of Hymenop- 
tera, and relish weevils best among beetles and grasshoppers among 
other insects. The cardinal alone is very fond of wild fruit, the 
place of this item in the regimen of the gray grosbeak being filled 
by a corresponding quantity of weed seed. The rose-breasted and 
black-headed grosbeaks also have similar preferences, each manifest- 
ing indifference toward grasshoppers but each relishing Hymenop- 
tera and true bugs. Fruit is held in about the same estimation by 
the two birds, though the blackhead is much more injurious to culti- 
vated varieties. Both it and the rosebreast make a specialty of leaf- 
beetles, each selecting a single species as one of its most favored foods. 
The blackhead pays slight attention to grain and weed seed, but feeds 
ravenously on scale insects; and the rosebreast, while by no means 
neglecting scales, feeds more extensively on cereals and seeds. The 
blue grosbeak is peculiar in three respects: It shows a very strong 
liking for grasshoppers, for lamellicorn beetles, and a maximum 
avidity for grain; and it is like the gray grosbeak in almost totally 
neglecting fruit. 

Preferences such as the above explain why one species' attacks par- 
ticular crops which the others never touch. Thus, from the standpoint 
of the fruit grower the blue grosbeak is entirely beneficial, but the 
grain grower sometimes has reason to execrate this species, while to 
him, the blackhead, which injures the fruit of his neighbor, seems 
innocent. But as has been shown in preceding pages the beneficial 
qualities predominate in both birds and " it is well to remember," as 
is wisely said by Wilson Flagg, ffl " that nature does not grant us a 
benefit without taking some compensation. We must be content to 
pay for the services of our useful birds by allowing them as a 
perquisite a certain portion of the fruits of our soil. We must pay 
the crow and blackbird in corn, and the robin and the cedar bird in 
cherries; and if it be objected that the robin tax falls disproportion- 
ately upon the fruit growers, so, on the other hand, the blackbird tax 
falls disproportionately upon the farmer and the corn grower. 
These evils, except as they can be prevented by watchfulness and 
ingenious contrivances that do not harm the bird, must be patiently 
endured for the common good." 

°Ann. Rep. Mass. Bd. Agr. (1861), 1862, Appendix, p. 76. 


Looking beyond the confines of the individual orchard or grain 
field, it is apparent that the grosbeaks make small demands either 
on our patience or endurance. The brief season of crop pilfering 
is a comparatively insignificant part of the otherwise beneficial 
yearly life of the grosbeaks, a fact sometimes lost sight of. The 
importance of birds as checks upon the insect enemies of agricul- 
ture, and the fact that they are among the most valuable assets 
of the farm, are too well known to require proof. No one should 
be so blinded to his own best interests by a sense of present injury 
as to destroy by wholesale creatures which by every intent and pro- 
vision of nature are among his best friends. The destruction of 
the most grievous pests known to us by birds give them a value 
comparable in degree, if not in kind, with that of some of the use- 
ful domestic animals, and when they are caught in mischief, 
they should be dealt with on the same principle as domestic stock, 
that is, with a view of preserving them for future service. Farm 
animals are not destroyed when they commit devastations; meas- 
ures are taken to protect the crops from future raids by strength- 
ening weak and broken fences. Similarly, crops should be pro- 
tected against the raids of birds, and experiments have demon- 
strated that bird netting, tarred seed, and decoy fruit trees, among 
other things, may successfully be employed to this end, while at 
the same time the birds are preserved to turn their energies to bet- 
ter account in destroying insect pests. 

No group of birds better deserves to be treated in this fair and 
practical way than the grosbeaks. The details 'of their useful hab- 
its, as given in the preceding pages, need not be repeated, but since 
a final estimate of the value of the group depends upon the exact 
nature of the food of its several members and their relation to 
agricultural interests, it is proper to restate general conclusions: 
The five grosbeaks studied consume on the average nine times more 
weed seed than grain and fruit. Moreover, they devour nineteen 
times more injurious than useful insects. Consequently, since their 
subsistence is about half animal and half vegetable, their food 
habits are about fourteen times more beneficial than injurious. It 
has been shown, furthermore, that they attack many destructive 
insects, even specializing on some of the greatest pests. The gros- 
beaks, therefore, making due allowance for the injury they do, are 
of great economic value, and it is evident that the farmer will 
derive great advantage by preserving them. 


Issued May 29, 1909, 









Bui. 33 Biological Survey, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture. 

Plate I. 

Fig. 1 .—Brown Rat. Fig. 2.— Black Rat. 

[From skins. One-third natural size.] 

Issued May 29, 1909. 











United States Department of Agriculture, 

Bureau of Biological Survey, 

Washington, D. C, January 28, 1909. 
Sir : I have the honor to transmit herewith a report on the Brown 
Rat in the United States, by Prof. David E. Lantz, and to recommend 
its publication as Bulletin No. 33 of the Biological Survey. 

The rat is believed to be the worst mammalian pest known to 
man. Not only does it damage property to the extent of many mil- 
lions of dollars annually, but to this pecuniary loss must be added 
the still greater harm it inflicts by the dissemination of the dreaded 
plague and other diseases. Boards of health of many maritime cities 
in this and other countries are now engaged in an active campaign 
against rats, but thus far without very gratifying success. In Japan, 
where the Government is awake to the seriousness of existing con- 
ditions, the number of rats destroyed annually, according to Pro- 
fessor Kitasato, varies "from several hundred thousand to a million. 
Nevertheless at the present day no appreciable diminution in the num- 
ber of rodents can be noticed. Reproduction keeps pace with de- 
struction, so that we are at a loss to know how to proceed. " In order 
to secure effective cooperation it is important to impress on the 
public the need of concerted and sustained effort, and particularly 
the necessity of depriving these noxious animals of the lavish supply 
of food and shelter now unwittingly furnished them. In this con- 
nection it is believed that the present bulletin will prove helpful. 

C. Hart Merriam, 

Chief Biological Survey. 
Hon. James Wilson, 

Secretary of Agriculture. 


CON T E N T S . 


Introduction 9 

Destructiveness of the brown rat 10 

Distribution of the genus Mus in America 11 

History of the brown rat 12 

General description 13 

Abundance of rats : 14 

Habits of rats 14 

Breeding 15 

Migrations and invasions 16 

Food of rats 18 

Damage by rats 19 

Grains 19 

Poultry and eggs 22 

Game and other birds 23 

Fruits and vegetables 24 

Merchandise in stores and warehouses 25 

Flowers and bulbs 26 

Fires caused by rats 27 

Damage to buildings and furniture 28 

Miscellaneous damage 29 

Extent of damage by rats and mice in cities , 30 

Rats and public health 31 

Utility of the rat 33 

Means of repressing rats 33 

Natural enemies of the rat 34 

Hawks 34 

Owls 34 

Wild mammals 35 

Rat-proof construction 36 

Keeping food from rats 39 

Driving away rats 40 

Destroying rats 41 

Traps :■ 41 

Poisons 44 

Domestic animals 48 

Fumigation 48 

Micro-organisms 50 

Organized efforts to destroy rats 51 

An international society 52 

Summary of recommendations 53 





I. Fig. 1. — Brown rat. Fig. 2. — Black rat Frontispiece. 

II. Fig. 1. — A cornfield devastated by brown rats. Fig. 2. — A single corn- 
stalk ruined by brown rats 20 

III. Copy of quarterly report of the rats destroyed in Copenhagen, October, 

November, and December, 1907 52 


Fig. 1. Telephone wires gnawed by rats 28 

2. Method of baiting guillotine trap 42 

3. Barrel traps 44 

4. A Burmese trap 45 




The rat is the worst mammalian pest known to man. Its depreda- 
tions throughout the world result in losses amounting to hundreds 
of millions of dollars annually. But these losses, great as they are, 
are of less importance than the fact that rats carry from house to 
house and from seaport to seaport the germs of the dreaded plague. 

Once occupying only a comparatively small part of the Old World, 
through the spread of commerce the brown rat has been furnished free 
transportation to the uttermost parts of the earth, while its fecundity, 
cunning, and adaptability to almost every kind of environment have 
enabled it to nourish and multiply wherever it has secured a foot- 

Man s antipathy to the rat is not new. For centuries the animal 
has been banned, and human ingenuity has been taxed to the utmost 
to suppress it. Innumerable devices in the way of traps, poisons, 
gases, and, more recently, cultures supposed to spread fatal diseases 
have been resorte n I , Nevertheless, the pest continues to prosper, 
and its numbers and destructiveness keep pace with the advance of 
civilization. ^Everywhere the history of the contest is the same. 
Though thousands are killed, the relief is only temporary, and other 
thousands soon replace the slain. Therefore, if conducted along the 
old lines, the war promises to be never-ending. 

The futility of past efforts and the lack of permanent results in- 
dicate that the real cure for the rat evil in cities, especially seaports, 
lies in preventive rather than curative methods. The extraor- 
dinary success that has attended the rat's struggle for existence is to 
be explained largely by the abundance of food and shelter furnished 
by man. Preventive measures should be directed to withholding 
these advantages. The curtailing of food is less important in its effect 
on the present rat population than in its certain result in lessening 
reproduction. Abundance of food means many } r oung in a litter 
and many litters in a year; a restricted supply means fewer young 
and fewer litters. The most important steps, therefore, toward the 
suppression of the rat are : 

(1) TJie enactment and strict enforcement of municipal ordinances 
providing for the disposal of garbage and the protection of food supplies. — 
Ever}^ effort should be made to instruct the public as to the necessity 
81155— Bull. 33—09 2 9 


for care in the disposition of refuse and the protection of food mate- 
rials. Tightly closed garbage cans frequently emptied will go far 
toward limiting the food available for rats. Grain bins in private 
and public stables, now affording food and harborage for thousands 
of rats, and public markets and feed, provision, and grocery stores, 
notoriously lacking in protection against rats, should have their con- 
tents safeguarded from these animals. 

(2) The rat-proof construction of dwellings and public buildings. — 
The advantages of cement in the cellars and foundations of public 
and private buildings are now so well understood that the rat-proofing 
of buildings by cement construction and other necessary measures 
should be no longer left to individual inclination and judgment, but 
should be incorporated in building regulations, and these strictly 
enforced. The additional expense, compared with the advantages, 
is trivial. 

The above measures are of first importance, but they will not 
entirely solve the problem of rat repression. The destruction of 
rats, wherever they are numerous, is very important and at times 
absolutely necessary in the interests of public health. Hence in the 
following pages are given the best methods known for destroying 
rats, many of which have been developed b}^ experiments and 
practical trials. Such methods, however, are fallible and at best 
inferior to preventive measures. The cutting off of the chief sources 
of food supply will limit the increase of the pests to a minimum, 
while the general construction of rat-proof buildings will deprive 
them of shelter and breeding places. The two measures will thus 
strike at the very root of the evil, ~nd if supplemented when necessary 
by a vigorous campaign of destruction will prove vastly more 
effective, much less expensive, and productive of far more enduring 
results than any measures hitherto attempted. 


At the head of the rat family for destructiveness stands the brown 
rat (Mus norvegicus), called also gray rat, house rat, barn rat, wharf 
rat, and Norway rat. (PI. I, fig. 1.) Like all members of the genus 
Mus found in America, the animal is not a native, but is an immi- 
grant from the Old World. In spite of constant warfare waged against 
it, the brown rat has steadily increased in numbers, and has spread to 
almost all parts of the country reached by railways or by steamship 
lines. Accidentally brought to our shores after the middle of the 
eighteenth century, in most places it has driven out or exterminated 
its less robust relative, the black rat. The dominance of the brown 
rat is probably due to its superior strength and ferocitVj its greater 
fecundity, its peculiar adaptability to various environments, and its 
more pronounced burrowing habit. 


The present bulletin is intended to acquaint the public with the 
habits of the brown rat, a the nature and extent of the losses inflicted 
by it, and the best available methods of fighting it. It is believed 
that such knowledge will result in more persistent attempts, through 
cooperation and individual effort, to exterminate the pest, or at least 
permanently to reduce its numbers. 


True rats and mice belong to the Old World genus Mus, of which 
nearly 300 species have been described. Of these about seven- 
eighths are properly to be classed as rats and the remaining one- 
eighth as mice. Among all the species of Mus four have developed 
the ability to adapt themselves to such a variety of conditions as to 
climate and food that, carried on ships, they have established them- 
selves in many parts of the world. These four are the only species 
of Mus that have become acclimatized in America. 

The common house mouse (Mus musculus) found its way to 
America soon after the first settlement by Europeans. It is now 
distributed in all settled parts of North and South America, but in 
the extreme north it does not always survive the winters, and is 
therefore scarce. 

The black rat (Mus rattus) (PL I, fig. 2) was carried to South and 
Middle America about three and a half centuries ago. The time of 
its arrival in the English colonies of North America is uncertain, but 
it was well established in the settled portions by the beginning of the 
eighteenth century. After the arrival of the brown rat, it began to 
decrease in numbers and gradually Jo disappear until it has become 
rare in most parts of the United States and Canada. It is now found 
in scattered colonies mostly east of the Mississippi Valley and on 
certain islands along the coast on both sides of the continent. It is 
occasionally observed in most of our seaports. The Biological 
Survey has specimens from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Georgia, 
Florida, Alabama, California, and Washington, as well as from 
Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Hawaii. Also there are authentic 
records of its recent occurrence in Newfoundland, Quebec, Nova 
Scotia, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, and 
Mississippi. In parts of South and Middle America the black rat 
has been more persistent and is still abundant. 

The roof, or Alexandrian, rat ( Mus alexandrinus) is similar to the 
black rat in form and habits, though not in color. Little is known 

a While this paper deals primarily with the brown rat, some of the illustrative facts 
quoted throughout the following pages refer to the black rat (Mus rattus) and to the 
roof rat (Mils alexandrinus). The habits of the three species differ so little that the 
methods given for combating them apply to all. In some of the discussions of losses 
caused by rats it has not been practicable to exclude those due to the common house 
mouse ( Mus musculus) . 


of its history, but it is supposed to be a native of Egypt, where it is 
still abundant. It is almost as remarkable as the brown rat for its 
wandering propensities, and it is probably quite as common on sea- 
going ships. It has established itself in seaports in many parts of 
the world, mainly in warm climates, and is common near the coast 
in southern parts of the United States. The Biological Survey has 
specimens from North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Missis- 
sippi, Texas, Arizona, and California. In the last-named State it is 
abundant in the Sacramento Valley. The species is known from 
Lake Drummond, Va., and from Cuba, the Bermudas, Trinidad, 
San Domingo, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Hawaii. It 
occurs also in many parts of South America, where it is often the 
dominant species. 

In most parts of the United States the rat common about houses 
and barns is the brown rat. It is larger and more robust than either 
the black rat or the roof rat, and differs from them considerably in 
habits. Unlike them, it almost always burrows in the ground under 
buildings and in loose soil along hedges and river banks. This habit 
affords better protection from enemies and, combined with the 
animal's greater ferocity, has enabled it to supplant the other species 
in temperate latitudes; but in the warmer parts of America it has 
not always been able to do this, and the roof rat appears to be -most 
numerous in many localities. The house mouse escapes the brown 
rat by taking refuge in crevices and other retreats too small for its foe 
to enter. 

The brown rat inhabits most of the thickly populated parts of 
America. North of Panama it occurs from the Isthmus to the Yukon 
Valley and to Greenland, except on the interior table-lands and per- 
haps in a few sections of the South. Between the Rocky Mountains 
and the Sierra it is confined almost entirely to towns along the rail- 
roads. The Biological Survey is without records of its presence in 
Nevada, Utah, Wyorhing, or Idaho. The ability of the species to 
withstand extreme cold is proved by the fact that it flourished in 
latitude 78° 37' north, on board the ship Advance of Doctor Kane's 
second Grinnell expedition during the two winters of icebound 
experience. It has been able to adapt itself also to the continuous 
low temperatures of cold-storage plants in many of our cities. 


The early history of the brown rat is practically unknown. The 
species is generally supposed to be of Asiatic origin, but we have no 
positive knowledge as to its native country. Various modern writers 
have asserted that it came originally from Persia or India. But Mr. 

« In the principal Asiatic seaports the brown rat is said to be often found closely 
associated with the other two forms. 


W. T. Blanford states that the species is at present unknown in 
Persia, and that, as concerns India, the black rat is the generally 
distributed species, while the brown rat is found only along the coast 
and the navigable rivers. This statement seems to imply that the 
latter is a comparatively recent immigrant into India. Early Greek 
and Roman writers make no mention of the rat, but it is possible that 
they knew the animal and included it in their references to mice. 

As regards the time of the brown rat's introduction into Europe, 
we have two known facts. The species reached England from some 
eastern port about 1728 or 1729, and a little earlier it crossed the 
Russian frontier from Asia. Pallas, the naturalist and traveler, 
states that it first reached Europe from the east by way of the Volga, 
which river it crossed in 1727, and soon afterwards spread over the 
greater part of Russia. 6 In view of the statement of Blanford, 
already referred to, it is highly probable* that previous to this migra- 
tion the Asiatic home of the species was northward rather than 
southward of the mountain barriers of northern India. This view 
has been advanced by several naturalists and is further strengthened 
by the fact that the animal appears to nourish better in a temperate 
than in a tropical climate. 

The brown rat is said to have first appeared in Paris in 1750. It 
was brought to the United States, probably from England, about 
the beginning of the Revolution, 1775. According to Audubon, it 
was unknown on the Pacific coast of the United States in 1851, 
although its introduction there must have occurred soon afterwards. 


The brown rat differs from the other two species in America in 
larger size, shorter head, more obtuse muzzle, smaller ears, and rela- 
tively shorter tail. The general color is grayish brown above and 
whitish below. The overhairs of the upper parts have black tips. 
The tail is usually shorter than the head and body combined, while 
in the other two species it is generally longer. 

The black rat is usually of a sooty or plumbeous black color, paler 
on the underparts; while the roof rat is slightly grayer than the 
brown rat above and yellowish white on the feet and belly. 

The skull of the brown rat shows well-marked differences from 
those of the other two species, but the skulls of the roof rat and the 
black rat are not readily distinguished from each other. Many 
zoologists regard the black rat as only a geographic race of the roof 
rat. The two forms interbreed freely. 

The tame white rats of the bird stores are said to be mostly of the 
Mus rattus type; but albino and spotted specimens of the brown 

« Fauna of British India, Mammals, p. 409, 1891. 
o Zoographica Rosso- Asiatica, Vol. I, p. 165, 1831. 


rat are not uncommon. The only albino rats in the collections of 
the National Museum and the Biological Survey are Mus norvegicus. 
Black, or melanistic, forms also of the brown sat are known. 

The average measurements of adult specimens of the brown rat 
in the Biological Survey collections are as follows: Total length 415 
mm. (16.4 inches); tail 192 mm. (7.1 inches); hind foot 43 mm. (1.7 
inches). This rat sometimes attains a total length of 19 to 20 inches 
and has been known to weigh 24 to 28 ounces. The average weight 
of an adult is less than a pound. 


Few persons realize the vast numbers of rats that may inhabit a 
very small area. In cities, particularly, the animals swarm along 
river fronts and wharfs, as well as in sewers, stables, warehouses, 
markets, and other places where food is abundant. It is only when 
some of these harbors are demolished that the real numbers of the 
rats are discovered. 

The number of rats that may harbor on an ordinary farm is as- 
tounding. In 1901 an estate of 2,000 acres near Chichester, England, 
was badly infested with the pests. They were systematically de- 
stroyed by traps, poisons, and ferrets. The total number destroyed 
under the personal supervision of the owner was 31,981; while it 
was estimated that tenants at the thrashing had killed fully 5,000 
more. Even then the property was by no means free from rats. a 

During the plague of rats on the island of Jamaica in 1833, the 
number killed on a single plantation in a year was 38,000. The 
injury to sugar cane on the island by the animals was at that time 
estimated at half a million dollars a year. b 

An idea of the immense number of rats that may infest a country 
may be obtained from the report of the Indian Famine Commission 
presented to the English Parliament in 1881. An extraordinary 
plague of the animals infested the southern Deccan and Mahratta 
districts of India. The autumn crop of 1878 and the spring crop of 
1879 were both below the average, and a great portion of the product 
was destroyed by rats. Rewards were paid for the destruction of the 
pests, and over 12,000,000 were killed. While they were mostly 
of the black species, the illustration of abundance applies just as 
well to the brown rat, which is even more prolific. 


Close observation of the habits of wild rodents, especially of those 
chiefly nocturnal, is difficult. It is not surprising, therefore, that 

a The Field (London), vol. 100, p. 545, 1902. 
&New England Farmer, vol. 12, p. 315, 1834. 
c British Medical Journal, September 16, 1905, p. 623. 


information on the life history of an animal so common as the brown 
rat should be meager, nor that diverse opinions about its breeding 
should be current. When wild rats are kept in confinement, they 
rarely breed, and the conclusions as to their breeding have been 
inferred from observations of domesticated white rats. 


Observations show that climate and food supply greatly affect the 
rate of multiplication of rodents. The rat is no exception. It 
increases most rapidly in a moderately warm climate and with an 
abundant supply of food. Extremes of heat and cold retard its mul- 
tiplication, decreasing both the number of litters produced in a year 
and the number of young brought forth at a time. 

As already stated, the brown rat is more prolific than either of the 
two other species mentioned. The female brown rat generally has 12 
mammae — 3 pairs of pectoral and 3 pairs of inguinal, although these 
numbers are means constant. The black rat and the roof rat 
have but 10 mamma? — 2 pairs of pectoral and 3 pairs of inguinal, 
with but little tendency to vary. Records of actual observations 
confirm the deductions to be drawn from the above facts. At Bombay, 
India, during the recent investigations of the India Plague Commis- 
sion, 12,000 rats were trapped and examined. The .average number 
of embryos observed in pregnant brown rats was 8.1; the highest 
number, 14. The average for the black rat was 5.2; the largest 
number,, 9. a 

In temperate latitudes the average litter of the brown rat is prob- 
ably considerably greater than the number above given. Instances 
of very large litters observed in England have been recorded in the 
Field (London). In two cases 22 and 23 young, respectively, were 
found in one nest, and in two other instances 17 and 19 were found 
in gravid females. A reliable observer residing in Washington, D. C, 
found 19 young rats in a single nest. The writer, on March 25, 1908, 
caught 6 rats in one trap, 3 of which were pregnant females, con- 
taining 10, 11, and 13 embryos, respectively. While we have hardly 
enough data on which to base definite conclusions for this latitude, 
we may safely conclude that the average litter is not less than 10. 

The number of litters of young produced in a year by the brown 
rat is not definitely known, and probably varies with local conditions. 
Dehne's observations on white rats showed that in one instance an 
interval of only 71 days intervened between two litters from the 
same rat. A young female of the first litter gave birth to 6 young 
when she was only 103 days old. 6 Frank T. Buckland in his Curi- 
osities of Natural History, relates that a white rat which he kept in 

a Etiology and Epidemiology of Plague, p. 9. Calcutta, 1908. 
b Brehm's Thierleben: Saugethiere, Vol. II, p. 353, 1877. 



captivity gave birth to 11 young when only eight weeks old. As 
gestation in rats occupies three weeks, this animal must have bred 
when only five weeks old. Kolazy records instances of but 25 days 
between successive litters of well fed albino rats. a 

The known facts concerning the reproduction of the brown rat in 
temperate latitudes may be briefly stated as follows: The animals 
breed from three to five times a year, each time bringing forth from 
6 to 20 young. After a gestation period of 21 days, the female gives 
birth to her young in nests in underground burrows or under floors, 
stacks, lumber, wood piles, or other shelter. The young are blind 
and naked when born, but grow rapidly, and the females are capable 
of breeding when less than three months old. 

If we assume that the animals breed three times a year and that 
the average litter is ten, and suppose that a pair and their progeny 
breed uninterruptedly at this rate for three years, with no deaths, 
the result would be as follows : 

Theoretical results of three years' (nine generations) uninterrupted breeding of a pair of 

brown rats. 











Number of pairs breeding 

Number of young produced 

Total number of individuals 








15, 552 


46, 656 
466, 560 
559, 872 

279, 936 
3, 359, 232 

16, 796, 160 

Of course, such results never occur in nature. Apparently not 
nearly half the rats born are females; at least, among mature rats 
the males greatly predominate. Then, too, the life of young rats, 
as well as that of the old, is a continuous struggle for existence. 
Disease, the elements, natural enemies, the devices and cunning of 
man, and even cannibalism are continually at work to reduce their 


Migrations of rats have often been recorded. Pallas narrates that 
in the autumn of 1727 the brown rat arrived at Astrakhan in southern 
Russia from the east in such numbers and in so short a time that 
nothing could be done to oppose them. They crossed the Volga 
in large troops. The cause of the migration was attributed to an 
earthquake; but since similar movements of this species often occur 
unattended by earth disturbance, it is probable that only the food 
problem was involved in the migration which first brought the brown 
rat to Europe. 

aVerh. Zool. Botan. Gesel., Wien, pp. 731-734, 1871. 


In nearly all countries a seasonal movement of rats from houses 
and barns to the open fields occurs in spring, and the return move- 
ment takes place as cold weather approaches. The movement is 
noticeable even in large cities. 

But more general movements of rats often occur. In 1903 a 
multitude of migrating rats spread over several counties of western 
Illinois. They were noticed especially in Mercer and Rock Island 
counties. For several years prior to this invasion no abnormal 
numbers were seen, and their coming was remarkably sudden. An 
eyewitness to the phenomenon informed the writer that as he was 
returning to his home by moonlight he heard a general rustling in 
the field near by, and soon a vast army of rats crossed the road in 
front of him, all going in one direction. The mass stretched away 
as far as could be seen in the dim light. These animals remained 
on the farms and in the villages of the surrounding country, and 
during the winter and summer of 1904 were a veritable plague. A 
local newspaper stated that between March 20 and April 20, 1904, 
Mr. F. U. Montgomery of Preemption, Mercer County, killed 3,435 
rats on his farm. He caught most of them in traps. a 

In 1877 a similar migration occurred into parts of Saline and 
Lafayette counties, Mo.; 6 and in 1904, one came under the writer's 
observation in Kansas River valley. This valley for the most part 
was flooded by the great freshet of June, 1903, and for about ten days 
was covered with several feet of water. It is certain, that most of 
the rats in the valley perished in this flood. In the fall of 1903 much 
of the district was visited by hordes of rats, which remained during 
the winter, and by the following spring had so increased in numbers 
that serious losses of grain and poultry resulted. 

No doubt the majority of the so-called migrations of rodents are 
in reality instances of unusual reproduction or of enforced migration 
owing to lack of food. In England a general movement of rats 
inland from the coast occurs every October. This is closely connected 
with the closing of the herring season. During the fishing, the rodents 
swarm to the coast, attracted by the offal left from cleaning the 
herring; and when this food supply fails, they hasten back to the farms 
and villages. 

In South America periodic plagues of rats have taken place in 
Parana, Brazil, at intervals of about thirty years, and in Chile at 
intervals of from fifteen to twenty-five years. These plagues in 
the cultivated lands follow the ripening and decay of the dominant 
species of bamboo in each country. The ripening of the seed furnishes 
for two or more years a favorite food for rats in the forests, where 

aMoline (111.) Evening Mail, April 25, 1904. 
b Forest and Stream, vol. 8, p. 380, July 12, 1877. 
81155— Bull. 33—09 3 


the animals multiply greatly; when this food fails they are forced to 
the cultivated districts for subsistence. In 1878 almost the entire 
crops of corn, rice, and mandioca in the State of Parana were destroyed 
by rats, causing a serious famine. 

An invasion of black rats (Mus rattus) in the Bermuda Islands 
occurred about the year 1615. In a space of two years they had in- 
creased so alarmingly that none of the islands were free from them. 
The rodents devoured everything which came in their way — fruit, 
plants, and even trees — so that for two years the people were destitute 
of bread. A law was passed requiring every man in the islands to set 
12 traps. In spite of all efforts, the animals increased, until they 
finally disappeared with a suddenness which could have resulted only 
from a pestilence. 6 


The brown rat is practically omnivorous. The statement applies 
as well to the black rat and the roof rat. Their bill of fare includes 
seeds and grains of all kinds, flour, meal, and food products made 
from them ; fruits and garden vegetables ; mushrooms ; bark of growing 
trees; bulbs, roots, stems, leaves, and flowers of herbaceous plants; 
eggs, chicks, ducklings, young pigeons, and young rabbits; milk, butter, 
and cheese; fresh meat and carrion; mice, rats, fish, frogs, and 
mussels. This great variety of food explains the ease with which 
rats adapt themselves to almost every environment. 

Experiments show that the average quantity of grain consumed 
by a full-grown rat is fully 2 ounces daily. A half-grown rat eats 
about as much as an adult. Fed on grain, a rat eats 45 to 50 pounds 
a year, worth about 60 cents if wheat, or $1.80 if oatmeal. Fed on 
beefsteaks worth 25 cents a pound, or on } r oung chicks or squabs 
with a much higher prospective value, the cost of maintaining a rat 
is proportionately increased. Granted that more than half the food 
of our rats is waste, the average cost of keeping one rat is still upward 
of 25 cents a year. 

If an accurate census of the rats of the United States were possible, 
a reasonably correct calculation of the minimum cost of feeding them 
could be made from the above data. If the number of rats supported 
by the people throughout the United States were equal to the number 
of domestic animals on the farms — horses, cattle, sheep, and hogs — 
the minimum cost of feeding them on grain would be upward of 
$100,000,000 a year. To some such enormous total every farmer, 
and indeed every householder who has rats upon his premises, con- 
tributes a share. 

But, as will be shown later, the actual depredations of rats are by 
no means confined to what they eat. They destroy fully as much 

a Nature, vol. 20, p. 65, 1879. 

b Popular Science Monthly, vol. 12, p. 376, June, 1878. 


grain as they consume, and they pollute and render unfit for human 
consumption a much larger proportion of all other food materials 
that they attack. In addition, the damage they do to property of 
other kinds is often as great as that done to food supplies. 


But few attempts have been made to collect statistics of damage 
done by noxious animals in America. The reported items of loss 
are so scattered and fragmentary that no accurate estimate of their 
amount is possible. In some parts of Europe, where agricultural 
holdings are small and minute economies prevail, such statistics are 
sometimes collected. Thus in Kussia returns of the losses from 
predatory Carnivora in the various provinces are published annually. 

A few estimates of the amount of losses from rats in foreign coun- 
tries have been published. In Denmark they have been reported 
as amounting to 15,000,000 francs ($3,000,000) yearly. a In France 
in 1904 the total losses from rats and mice were estimated at 
200,000,000 francs (nearly $40,000,000). b The German Ministry 
of Agriculture, in a circular addressed to various subordinate cham- 
bers of agriculture, states that the people of Germany suffer an annual 
loss through the agency of the rat of at least 200,000,000 marks 
($50,000,000). Sir James Crichton-Browne, of the English Incor- 
porated Society for the Destruction of Vermin, says that the damage 
done by the rat in Great Britain and Ireland ''in its rural activities, 
to say nothing of what it does in towns and in connection with ship- 
ping, is £15,000,000 (about $73,000,000) per annum." c 

The principal ways in which rats inflict losses in the United States 
are discussed under the various subheadings below. 


Cultivated grains may be regarded as the favorite food of rats. 
The animals dig the seed from the ground as soon as sown, eat "the 
tender sprouts when they appear, and later feast upon the maturing 
crop. After harvest they attack grain in shock, stack, and mow, 
and when thrashing is over, in crib, granary, elevator, mill, and 
warehouse. The toll thus taken varies with the numbers of the 
rodents, and in some places amounts to a considerable percentage 
of the crop. In exceptional cases entire crops have been ruined 
by rats. 

Indian corn. — On the whole this crop suffers greater injury from 
rats than any other in the United States. Besides depredations on 
newly sown seed, the animals attack the growing grain when in the 

a Dr. Adrian Loir in Jour. d'Agri. Tropicale, vol. 3, p. 369, December 31, 1903. 
kJour. Board of Agri., Great Britain, vol. 2, p. 50, 1904. 
cjour. Inc. Soc. Dest. Vermin, vol. 1, p. 74, October, 1908. 


milk stage. They climb the upright stalks and often strip the cobs 
clean of grain. The writer has seen whole fields of corn so destroyed, 
and in many cases has observed parts of fields amounting to several 
acres practically ruined. A writer in the American Agriculturist 
reported an instance in which rats destroyed three-fourths of the 
corn on 13 acres of land.® In 1905 a large portion of the crop 
grown on the Potomac flats, near Washington, was destroyed by 
rats (Plate II). The crops for 1906 and 1907 were saved by the use 
of traps and poisons. 

Corn in the field, if left standing long in the shock, is liable to 
injury from rats. A pair of the animals will soon ruin an entire 
shock, destroying both grain and fodder. Such damage is sure to 
take place if the corn is near hedgerows, embankments, drains, or 
other harbors where rats are abundant; but sometimes the shocks 
themselves furnish shelter for the animals. 

Rats often damage corn in cribs. Too frequently these receptacles 
for grain are built close to the ground, and rats live under the floor. 
They often perforate the wooden barrier and thereafter have free 
access to the grain. They shell the corn, eating the softer part 
of" the kernel and wasting much more than they consume. They 
carry the grain to subterranean burrows and bring up into the crib 
moist soil, which induces mold in the corn and leaves much unfit 
for market or for feeding stock. A correspondent in Arkansas once 
wrote to the secretary of the American Institute, stating that fully 
half his corn was destroyed by rats after it was placed in the crib. 6 

A farmer living near Grand River, Iowa, relates the following 
experience : 

"We had about 2,000 bushels of corn in 3 cribs to which rats 
ran, and they ate and destroyed about one-fourth of the corn. Much 
of it was too dirty to put through the grinder until it had been cleaned 
an ear at a time. All the time we were poisoning and trapping 
the rats. We killed as high as 300 rats in two days and could hardly 
miss them. They destroyed more than enough corn to pay taxes 
on 400 acres of land." c 

The foregoing are extreme cases, but too often farmers lose a 
considerable portion of the crop by rat depredations. A little fore- 
thought and care in constructing or protecting the cribs would 
prevent such losses. 

Small grains. — The rat in America has usually been considered a 
house and barn pest, and little notice has been taken of its destruc- 
tiveness in fields. As a matter of fact, in some localities brown rats, 
and also common house mice, swarm in the fields, especially in summer. 

a Am. Agr., vol. 33, p. 300, 1874. 
b Trans. Am. Inst., 1866-67, p. 347. 
c Mo. Valley Farmer, April, 1907. 

Bui. 33, Biological Survey, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture. 

Plate II. 


The permanency of the rat's stay in any place is merely a question 
of food supply. As long as cribs and stables furnish plenty, rats 
remain in them, but in summer the harvest held and the wheat stacks 
prove equally if not more attractive, and rats roam far afield. 

The small grain crops — wheat, rye, barley, oats, and the like^- 
during growth and until they leave the farmer's hands are con- 
stantly dwindling in quantity through inroads made upon them 
by rats, and these animals continue to prey upon them at every 
stage of their progress from the field to the consumer. Rats take 
toll not only from the portion set apart for human food, but even 
from feed box and manger, as well as from hog trough and out- 
door field lot. Bran and chopped grains are as acceptable to rats 
as whole grain. 

The destruction of feedstuffs by rats is a serious loss not only on 
the farm but in almost every city and village in the whole country. 
Often through carelessness or the indifference of servants, the bin 
or barrel in which feed is kept is left uncovered, and rats fairly 
swarm to the nightly feast. In some cases investigated in Washing- 
ton, D. C, the loss was equal to 5 or 10 percent of the grain bought. 
A grocer was buying feed for two horses and several hundred rats; 
the horses were fed at regular intervals, the rats nearly all the time. 
In the cases of establishments keeping from fifty to a hundred 
horses, the loss of feed in the course of a year often amounts to a 
large item. 

Rats are very fond of malt, and in malt houses and breweries 
constant watchfulness is necessary to prevent losses. Mills, elevators, 
and warehouses in which grain and feedstuffs are stored are likewise 
subject to invasions of the animals. Also the destruction of sacks, 
barrels, and bins is a large item of loss. 

Rice. — Rats and mice injure rice fields in the South. The brown 
rat burrows freely in the dikes and is usually the most destructive 
species, although the introduced roof rat, the native rice rat (Oryzo- 
mys), and the native cotton rat (Sigmodon) also are injurious in some 
localities. A letter from Alfred Chisholm, of Savannah, written to 
Doctor Merriam about twenty years ago, gives some details of the 
abundance of rats — probably several species — in the Georgia rice 
fields. Mr. Chisholm says: 

Rats do almost if not quite as much damage [to rice] as birds. * * * It is a 
matter of fact that Col. John Screven had killed on his Proctor plantation (400 acres 
of rice lands) over 17,000 rats; and on the Delta plantation (1,000 to 1,200 acres) there 
were killed by actual count 30,000. These rats were killed during the winter and 
spring of the same year. During the "stretch" flow, the rats will swim out into the 
fields from their holes in the dikes and eat every grain of rice left exposed, their 
depredations being carried on mostly at night. 

Arsenic was used to poison the rodents, some planters having 
each purchased from 50 to 100 pounds of the poison. 


Sugar cane. — In nearly all countries that produce cane sugar the 
planters experience serious loss from rat depredations. The animals 
cut down and eat the ripening canes, usually selecting a fresh one 
at each attack. Recent complaints of serious losses to cane planters 
in Porto Rico and Louisiana have been received by the Biological 


The depredations of rats upon poultry are a source of serious loss. 
The amount of damage varies with the abundance of rats and the care 
taken to exclude them from the poultry yard; but the total for the 
entire country is always great. The loss of poultry due to rats is 
probably greater than that inflicted by foxes, minks, weasels, skunks, 
hawks, and owls combined. Since harm is usually done at night 
and the actual culprit is unseen, conclusions as to the identity of 
the marauder are often mere guesswork, and much of the damage 
done by rats is blamed upon other animals. Not long since, in a 
published account of depredations on poultry, the damage was 
attributed to a skunk. The statement was made that both eggs 
and young chicks were taken from under a sitting hen without 
disturbing her. This is a trick peculiar to the rat, and it is evident 
that a mistake was made as to the identity of the thief. 

Where rats are numerous in springtime, they often prey upon 
young chicks, capturing them in the nest and in and around the 
coops. I have known them to take nearly all the chicks on a large 
poultry ranch, and, in the same neighborhood and over a large ter- 
ritory, to destroy nearly 50 percent of the season's hatching. Young 
ducks, turkeys, and pigeons are equally liable to attack, and where 
rats are numerous are safe only in rat-proof coops. 

A writer in a western agricultural paper states that in 1904 rats 
robbed him of an entire summer's hatching of three or four hundred 
chicks. a A correspondent of another journal says, "Rats destroyed 
enough grain and poultry on this place in one season to pay our 
taxes for three years." 6 When it is remembered that the poultry 
and eggs produced each year from the farms of the United States 
have a value of over $600,000,000, it will be seen that even a small 
percentage of loss aggregates a large sum. 

Rats destroy also many eggs both on farms and in cities. Fresh 
as well as incubated eggs are eaten by these rodents. Commission 
men and grocers complain much of depredations upon packed eggs. 
Those at the top of a case are broken by these animals, and parts 
of the yelks run down and stain the unbroken ones. Often, however, 
rats carry away eggs without breaking them, and display much 
ingenuity in getting them over obstacles, as up or down a stairway. 

o Homemaker (Des Moines, Iowa), May 27, 1907. 
t> Mo. Valley Farmer, April, 1907. 


On a level surface the rat rolls the egg before him, but he can easily 
carry it between a paw and his neck and chin, while going upon three legs. 

A commission merchant in Washington relates that he once stored 
in his warehouse 100 dozen eggs in a wooden tub with a lid of boards 
nailed on. Rats gnawed a hole through the tub at the top and 
carried away all but 28^ dozen, leaving no shells or stains to show 
that any had been broken. 

Eats cause much annoyance and loss to poultrymen by their 
destruction of feed put out for fowls. 

Rats are very destructive to tame pigeons, attacking especially 
young squabs, but destroying eggs also. They often show great 
cunning in finding entrances to the cages. A fancier residing in 
Washington, D. C, missed many of his squabs and was satisfied that 
the only opening by which an animal could enter was the exit at the 
top of the flying cage. He closed the opening and set a trap there, 
in which he caught a large rat. The animal had climbed the wire 
netting on the outside and descended it on the inside to reach the 


The rat is a most serious pest in game preserves. The propaga- 
tion of game birds, both native and introduced, is now a promising 
industry in the United States. The rat has already proved itself a 
foe by destroying both eggs and young of pheasants. Abroad, the 
game preserver regards the rat as the worst enemy of game. A 
writer in Chambers' Journal says: 

In a closely preserved country at the end of an average year the game suffers more 
from the outlying rats of the lordship than from the foxes and the mustelines together. 
The solitary rats, whether males or females, are the curse of a game country. They 
are most difficult to detect; for in a majority of cases their special work is supposed 
to be done by hedgehog, weasels, or stoat. a 

Another writer says: 

There is little doubt that of late years the worst vermin with which the generality 
of preservers have had to contend has been the rat. It has increased largely in num- 
bers and in some districts become quite a plague, despite the extraordinary efforts 
made to deal with its ever-increasing depredations. It is unnecessary to speculate 
upon the probable cause of this remarkable increase. It is due entirely to the neglect 
of farmers, preservers, and others to adopt adequate means to deal with the pest. & 

Our native game birds in the wild state are less subject to rat 
depredations than imported species. The nests of ruffed grouse are 
made in woodlands, which rats seldom invade The prairie hen and 
related species generally nest in places remote from the usual haunts 
of rats. The quail, or bob white, however, often selects a nesting 
site within the summer range of rats, and many a quail's egg reaches 
the maws of these animals. 

a Chambers' Journal, vol. 82, p. 64, January, 1905. 

b Practical Game Preserving, by Wm. Carnegie ("Moorman"), p. 349, 1906. 


Nests of wild ducks, woodcock, and other marsh birds are fre- 
quently destroyed by rats. Terns have been driven from their nest- 
ing grounds and entire colonies broken up in this way. Professor 
Mayer, of the Department of Marine Biology, Carnegie Institution 
of Washington, wrote, May 3, 1908, that rats had almost exter- 
minated the colony of least terns on Loggerhead Key, Tortugas 
Islands. They destroyed also nearly all the gulls' and other birds' 
eggs laid on the key. A more recent letter from Professor Mayer 
states that, through systematic use of traps and poisons, all the 
terns hatched during the summer of 1908 were saved. 

Rats eat also the eggs of nearly all kinds of ground-nesting song 
birds, and the real offender is seldom even suspected. Crows, jays, 
snakes, and skunks get much of the blame for the destruction; and 
while some of them share in the guilt, rats are, after all, the most 
serious enemies of song and game birds. 


The damage done by rats to fruits and vegetables while stored in 
cellars and pits is well known. If any garden vegetable or common 
fruit is immune to their attacks, the fact has thus far escaped notice. 
But the extent to which the animals prey upon fruits and vegetables 
before they are harvested is not generally known. Bats attack ripe 
tomatoes, melons, cantaloupes, squashes, pumpkins, sweet corn, 
and many other vegetables in the field, and the depredations are 
often attributed to rabbits. Often both rats and rabbits take 
toll from the same field or garden, and the work of the former is 

Rats are fond of nearly all small fruits, picking them up from the 
ground arid even climbing grape vines, raspberry or blackberry canes, 
and currant or gooseberry bushes to obtain the ripe fruit. 

The brown rat often feeds upon ripe apples, pears, cherries, and 
other fruits that have lallen to the ground, but it has been known to 
climb even to the extremities of the branches to obtain ripe apples. a 
Capt. R. R. Raymond, U. S. Army, records the following: 

Just west of old Fort Clinton, at West Point, N. Y., there was, about twenty-five 
years ago, a deep hollow, in the bottom of which several cherry trees grew. The hol- 
low was used as a dump and was gradually filled level, but at the time mentioned was 
the home of a great many Norway rats. I often visited the hollow for cherries and 
frequently met rats in the trees on the same errand as myself .& 

Dr. L. O. Howard, Chief of the Bureau of Entomology, Washington, 
D. C, informs the writer that during a single afternoon he shot 28 
rats from the branches of a cherry tree growing in the heart of the 
city. The rats were feeding on the ripe fruit. 

a The Field (London), vol. 78, p. 660. 
b Shields' Magazine, vol. 5, p. 123, 1907. 


The brown rat is less of a climber than either the roof rat or the 
black rat; but in warm countries all three climb trees to a greater 
extent than in the north. Indeed, it is probable that one of the 
chief reasons why the brown rat has not been able to displace the 
others within the Tropics lies in the fact that they are more expert 
climbers. Both the roof rat and the black rat often nest in trees in 
hot countries, and as. a matter of course feed much upon fruits. 
During the present attempts to abate the rat nuisance in Honolulu, 
Hawaii, about one-third of the rats taken have been shot from trees. 
While all four of the cosmopolitan species of Mus are common in 
Hawaii, those shot are chiefly the roof rat and the black rat. 

Among the tropical fruits eaten by rats are oranges, bananas, figs, 
dates, cocoanuts, and especially the pods of cacao, from which choco- 
late is manufactured. 

Attempts to grow dates in the southwestern United States have 
shown that thus far a native rat (Sigmodon) is the worst enemy of 
the date in America, but it is probable that the introduced rat will 
soon find its way into the plantations, displace the native species, 
and prove a more serious foe. 

In many lands rats have proved to be enemies of the coffee-growing 
industry. A correspondent of The Field (London) writes to that 
journal as follows: "A coffee plantation in which I have an interest 
in Central America has recently been infested with rats to such an 
extent that life is almost unbearable. The place has an extent of sev- 
eral thousand acres, part of which is forest land, and I have noticed 
the branches of the bigger trees full of the pests in the daytime." a 

Grapes grown under glass are peculiarly subject to attacks of rats. 
This is especially true in situations where the surrounding buildings 
are old and dilapidated. b 

Rats often destroy fruits and vegetables in transit on steamboats. 
Tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, bananas, oranges, grape fruit, 
peanuts, and other products shipped by water from the South reach 
their destination in northern markets with a heavy percentage of 
damage. Steamship companies usually ignore the claims of shippers 
or receivers for shortage from this cause; and their legal responsi- 
bility has not been established. In view of the practicability of 
destroying rats on steamers by means of fumigation, and the slight 
cost of building rat-proof compartments for holding the produce, it 
would seem that this form of loss should be entirely avoided. 


Next to the loss on grains, the largest item of loss due to rats is on 
miscellaneous merchandise in stores, markets, and warehouses. 

a A. H. G., in The Field (London), vol. 107, p. 787, May 6, 1905. 
& Gardener's Chronicle, 1861, p. 986. 
81155— Bull. 33—09 4 


Food materials of every description are subject to attack, but the 
destruction of dry goods, clothing, books, leather goods, and so on, 
is equally serious. Many are gnawed to secure material for nests; 
but books and pamphlets, especially the newly bound, furnish food 
in the glue and paste used in the binding. Leather of certain kinds 
is peculiarly attractive to rats. Articles made of kid leather are 
often destroyed, gloves and shoes especially. Shoes made of ordinary 
leather are seldom injured unless they have cloth tops. Rats often 
gnaw old harness, attracted probably by the salt left from perspiring 
horses. New harnesses are seldom injured, except collars and crup- 
pers, to which rats are attracted by the straw or flaxseed in the 
stuffing. A harness dealer in Washington reports a recent loss of 
over a hundred new cruppers, valued at about $90. 

Lace curtains, silk handkerchiefs, linens, carpets, mattings, and 
other dry goods in large stores are much damaged by rats ; some for 
the starch which furnishes food, others for nesting materials. Stuffs 
that have been soiled by rats in passing over them are often rendered 

Nearly all large dry goods and department stores have heavy 
losses from rats, amounting in some instances to several hundred 
dollars a year, in spite of unremitting efforts to destroy the animals. 
Grocers, druggists, confectioners, and other merchants have similar 
experiences. Many of them expend large sums every year fighting 
the pests. Most of our large cities have several so-called expert rat 
destroyers who operate with dogs, ferrets, poisons, and other means, 
and who have a large clientage among merchants and hotel managers. 
These pay yearly stipends of various sums, from $100 to $600, to the 
rat catchers to keep their premises free from rats and mice. While 
the stipulated service is not often performed in full, the clients usually 
regard the expenditures as economical. 


Rats are recognized pests of the greenhouse and the plant-propagat- 
ing pit. They attack seeds, bulbs, leaves, stems, and flowers of growing 
plants. Of flowering bulbs, the tulip suffers most. Hyacinths also 
are eaten, while narcissus bulbs are apparently immune to attack. 
Doubtless this is owing to the slightly poisonous qualities of narcissus. 

During the winters of 1904-5 and 1905-6 rats destroyed many of 
the tulips grown on the Potomac flats near Washington. Some- 
times several hundred bulbs were taken in a single night. Hya- 
cinths were injured to a less extent. Traps and poisons made heavy 
inroads upon the numbers of rats, and probably about 60 percent of 
the tulips and 90 percent of the hyacinths were saved each season. 

Rats attack flowering plants in the greenhouse or conservatory as 
well as house plants elsewhere. They eat pinks, carnations, and 


roses, cutting the stems off clean, and denude geraniums of both 
flowers and leaves. In stores and markets infested by rats carna- 
tions can not be left exposed without being eaten. Next to carnation 
growers, the growers of chrysanthemums are the greatest losers, for 
rats attack the choicest blooms even in exhibition rooms. 


In the museum of the Royal United Service Institution, Whitehall, 
London, some years ago, a rat nest was exhibited bearing the follow- 
ing note : 

Rat's nest and young. This nest was set on fire by a lucifer match ignited by the 
old rat as she worked it into her nest. A fire was nearly caused thereby on H. M. S. 
Revenge. — Lieut. A. H. Gilmore, R. N. a 

It is generally believed that rats and mice cause fires by igniting 
matches with their teeth. The testimony of chiefs of fire depart- 
ments and adjusters of fire-insurance claims confirms this belief, and 
many specific instances have been given of fires caused in this way. 
A fire which resulted in the partial destruction of the Sultan's palace 
at Scutari, Asia Minor, in 1856, had such an origin. During 1907 the 
fire department of Washington, D. C, gave a similar explanation of 
a fire which seriously damaged a large store and its contents. 

Manufacturers of matches often dip them in paraffin to protect the 
phosphorus. The paraffin is attractive to rats and mice, and the 
matches are often carried under floors and behind partitions, where 
they are subsequently gnawed. Paper and other combustible mate- 
rials collected by the animals add to the danger of fires. Moreover, 
since the heads of phosphorus matches contain from 14 to 17 percent 
of phosphorus, it does not require actual gnawing by rats to ignite 
them. Hot weather, excessive heat from furnaces, or friction of any 
kind may effect the same result as the teeth of rats, when the matches 
have been carried into a nest made of combustibles. 

Fires in mills and warehouses have been traced to the spontaneous 
ignition of oily and fatty rags or waste carried under floors by rats 
or mice. Cotton mills are said to be peculiarly subject to fires from 
this cause. 

Phillip's warehouse, Church street, London, was twice set on fire 
and damaged by reason of gas leaks. In both instances the lead gas 
pipe leading to the meter had been eaten through by rats, and the 
escaping gas was accidentally set on fire by workmen who were search- 
ing for the leak. 5 In a similar instance of gas leak caused by rats in 
a London private residence, no fire resulted, but a sleeping family of 
four persons narrowly escaped death by asphyxiation. An inspector 
in the employ of the Washington Gas Light Company recounts a 

aHardwicke's Science Gossip, vol. 5, p. 142, 1869. 
^Hardwicke's Science Gossip, vol. 10, p. 73, 1874. 


similar instance in that city where pipes were gnawed by rats, but 
fortunately it occurred when the inmates were awake. 

The most common way in which rats cause fires is by gnawing away 
the insulating covering from wires used in electric lighting, where the 
wires pass under floors or inside of partitions. The insulating mate- 
rials are used for nests, which rats often build of combustibles placed 
in contact with the naked wires. Insurance companies, a few years 
ago, estimated the fire loss in the United States due to defective 
insulation of wires at $15,000,000 yearly; and since rats and mice 
are the chief agents in impairing the insulation after the wires are in 
place, a large part of the above sum must be charged to these animals. 

Rats often do mischief by gnawing the insulating covering of tele- 
phone wires to obtain the paraffin which it contains. The accom- 
panying illustration (fig, 1) is from a photograph of wires gnawed by 

Fig. 1.— Telephone wires gnawed by rats. 

rats August 20, 1908, where these wires passed through a partition 
in rooms occupied by the Biological Survey. 


The damage to houses and furniture by rats constitutes a large item. 
They burrow under foundations or through the plaster in a stone wall 
and admit streams of water that eventually weaken or undermine the 
structure itself. They seem to be able to penetrate almost every- 
thing except stone, brick, cement, glass, and iron. They gnaw into 
a grain bin, or through a wainscoting, a floor, or a door in a single 
night. In the same way they enter chests, wardrobes, bookcases, 
closets, barrels, and boxes for the stores within. Almost every old 
dwelling in the country bears abundant evidence of its former or pres- 
ent occupancy by rats. Often depreciation in value of houses and 
furniture is due largely to marks left upon them by rats — marks 
that paint and varnish can not hide. 


Damage to dwellings is even more serious. The decay of sills and 
floors is often hastened by contact with wet soil brought up by rats. 
Rats gnaw through lead pipes or wooden tanks to obtain water, and 
sometimes before the leak is discovered, ceilings, wall decorations, 
and floor coverings are flooded and practically ruined. All this is 
waste of a tangible kind and a constant drain on the prosperity of 
the people. 


Like the muskrat, the common brown rat burrows into embank- 
ments and dams, often causing extensive breaks attended with serious 
loss. At State and National fish hatcheries rats cause much trouble 
by burrowing into embankments and gnawing through wooden tanks. 

Rats often gnaw the hoofs of horses until the feet bleed. Several 
keepers of livery stables and dealers in horses in Washington, D. C, 
have had animals thus injured. Brushing the hoofs with dilute car- 
bolic acid is a preventive. 

Rats have been known to kill young lambs and pigs and to attack 
very fat hogs and eat holes in their bodies, causing death. Farrow- 
ing sows have been killed by rats gnawing their teats until blood 
poisoning resulted. a In a similar way, they sometimes attack the 
ears of pigs and shoats and cause their death by the gradual blood- 

Many accounts of rats attacking human beings have been published. 
The modern newspaper reporter seems to delight in harrowing tales 
of this character, most of which are the product of fertile imagina- 
tion. Rats will fight if closely cornered or made desperate by lack 
of food, but many persons already have an unreasoning fear of the 
animals, which ought not to be intensified by exaggeration. 

Rats often carry away valuable articles to use in constructing their 
nests. The following were found in a single nest: Three bed-room 
towels, 2 serviettes, 5 dust cloths, 2 pairs linen knickerbockers, 6 
linen pocket handkerchiefs, and 1 silk handkerchief. The same rat 
had carried away and stored near its nest for food 1 J pounds sugar, a 
pudding, a stalk of celery, a beet, carrots, turnips, and potatoes. 6 

Rats in London warehouses and on shipboard do much damage 
to ivory in bulk. They gnaw the tusks, usually selecting the freshest 
and most valuable specimens. 

A form of loss by rats once common on ships is not so prevalent 
now, owing to the more common use of metal in the construction of 
tanks and bulkheads. This was the perforation of wooden parti- 
tions and the damaging of merchandise and ship stores by water. 

a Moline (111.) Evening Mail, April 25, 1904. 
&The Field (London), vol. 77, p. 46, 1891. 


The extensive use of tinned provisions has also greatly diminished the 
losses to ship stores. 

The destruction of mail sacks and their contents by rats during 
transportation on ships and at railway stations is a common source 
of loss. Grain sacks and bagging of all kinds are injured by rats 
more than by wear. 


During January and February, 1908, the writer personally inter- 
viewed about 500 business men in Washington and more than 100 
in Baltimore for the purpose of securing data upon which to base 
an estimate of the probable amount of injury done to property by 
rats and mice in cities. The persons interviewed included dealers 
in various kinds of merchandise, feeders of horses, managers of hotels 
and restaurants, and manufacturers. The inquiries included all sec- 
tions of the two cities and small dealers as well as large. Estimates 
of losses experienced during the calendar year 1907 were asked for, 
and, while some of the responses were mere guesses, the losses re- 
ported furnish a fairly reliable basis for averages. 

Of 499 firms interviewed in Washington, 71 reported no losses, 83 
were unable to give estimates, and 345 reported damages aggregating 
$36,100. Of the firms seen, no account was taken of about two score 
alien dealers in groceries or fruits who, probably because of fears of 
health inspection, would not admit that they were troubled by rats or 
mice, although evidences of rat damage were plainly visible in their 

The whole number of firms in the city engaged in the lines of busi- 
ness investigated is about 4,500. If those whose reports were con- 
sidered had average losses, the total for the city would be upward of 
$300,000; but, to avoid exaggeration, a probable average per firm in 
each kind of business was calculated separately. With reasonable re- 
ductions made in this way, the total loss on merchandise in the city 
was estimated at $193,615. The several lines of trade not included 
would increase the total for the entire city to more than $200,000. 

Besides the above, great loss is experienced in injury to buildings — 
public, business, and private. The loss on furniture and fixtures also 
is great. If we estimate the losses in private residences — including 
personal property and food destroyed, depreciation of property, and 
the cost of traps, poisons, cats, dogs, and other means of fighting 
rats — as averaging $4 for each residence, the total amounts to 
$200,000 a year also. It is conservative to place the entire yearly loss 
to the people of Washington from rats and mice at $400,000. 

Inquiries in Baltimore developed the fact that, in proportion to 
amount of business and population, the damage from rats and mice is 
fully as great as in Washington. The portion of Baltimore rebuilt 


since the great fire of February, 1904, has been reasonably free from 
rats until the past year. However, many of the large modern build- 
ings erected in the burnt district are now infested with rats. Losses 
from rats in the markets of Baltimore are less than in those of Wash- 
ington, not because rats are scarcer, but because Baltimore enforces 
more stringent regulations as to the storing of goods and the arrange- 
ment of fixtures in the stalls. Based on its population and commer- 
cial importance as compared with Washington, the total losses exceed 
$700,000 a year. If similar conditions hold for all cities of over 
100,000 inhabitants in the United States, as they probably do, depre- 
dations of rats and mice in these centers of population entail a direct 
loss to the residents amounting to the enormous sum of $20,000,000 


The most serious charge against rats grows out of their relation to 
human health. It is now positively known that rats are chiefly 
responsible for the spread of bubonic plague, a malady which, in spite 
of modern methods of fighting it, has within the past dozen years 
destroyed over 5,000,000 human beings in India alone. During 1907 
the deaths from plague in India were 1,200,000, and by May, 1908, 
the present epidemic, which started in China in 1894, had invaded all 
the continents and infected 51 countries of the world. The identity 
of plague in man with plague in the rat was proved some years ago, 
but the particular means by which the disease is transmitted from 
rat to rat and from rat to man was not clearly understood until 
recently. The fact that fleas carry the infection was set forth posi- 
tively as early as 1902, but the conclusions of the India Plague Com- 
mission have finally removed all doubt upon the subject. The results 
of two years of exhaustive research were recently published in a 
pamphlet which thus summarizes the conclusions concerning bubonic 
plague : 

1. Bubonic plague in man is entirely dependent on the disease in the rat. 

2. The infection is conveyed from rat to rat and from rat to man solely by means of 
the rat flea. 

3. A case of bubonic plague in man is not in itself infectious. 

4. A large majority of plague cases occur singly in houses. When more than one 
case occurs in a house the attacks are generally simultaneous. [This proves that there 
is no soil infection.] 

5. Plague is usually conveyed from place to place by imported rat fleas which are 
carried by people on their persons or in their baggage. The human agent not infre- 
quently himself escapes infection. 

6. Insanitary conditions have no relation to the occurrence of plague, except in so 
far as they favor infestation by rats. 

7. The nonepidemic season is bridged over by acute plague in the rat, accompanied 
by a few cases amongst human beings. 

a Etiology and Epidemiology of Plague, p. 93. Calcutta, 1908. 


Experiments were made with two species of rat fleas, both of 
which were found to carry the infection. Probably all kinds of rat 
fleas transmit plague, while those that commonly infest dogs, cats, 
and man do not. 

The conclusions of the Plague Commission had already been prac- 
tically accepted by medical men in most parts of the world, and 
recent outbreaks of plague were followed by active measures for the 
destruction of rats. In India, as early as 1905, the authorities of the 
United Provinces (Agra and Oudh) began a persistent war upon the 
animals. Rewards were offered for killing rats, and traps were given 
to the people. In the four centers of population — Agra, Allahabad, 
Bareli, and Badaun — a total of 416,403 rats were killed before the 
close of the first year. a In Athens, Odessa, Oporto, Glasgow, and 
other European cities systematic, but on the whole unsuccessful, 
efforts were made to exterminate these animals. 

Similar attempts to get rid of rats have been made since Septem- 
ber, 1907, in some of the Pacific ports of our own country, particu- 
larly in San Francisco, where up to February, 1908, 77 deaths from 
plague occurred. Traps, poisons, bounties, and other means were 
employed to reduce the number of rodents. During the first four 
months of warfare under the direction of the United States Marine- 
Hospital Service about 130,000 of the animals were destroyed in San 
Francisco and vicinity. In the early months of 1908 the work of de- 
struction was stimulated by increased bounties, and for a time the 
number of rats killed averaged about 7,000 per week. Up to May, 
1908, 278,000 rats were captured in the city and it was estimated 
that half a million had been poisoned. 

From May, 1908, to January 1, 1909, 115,869 rats were trapped and 
9,797 were found dead in San Francisco. On an average, over 140,000 
poisoned baits per week were placed, but as a matter of course the 
number of dead rats discovered was only a small percent of the 
total number killed by poison. The last rat found infected with 
plague bacillus was taken October 23, 1908, but no human cases of 
the disease have occurred in the city since January, 1908. 

In Honolulu, Hawaii, active operations against rats have been 
reported since May 23, 1908. During the 30 weeks ending December 
12, 1908, 20,288 rats were trapped and 3,528 shot from trees in the 
city. None of those examined was infected with plague bacillus. 

But rats disseminate diseases other than bubonic plague. Trich- 
inosis among swine is probably perpetuated entirely by rats. The 
occurrence of trichinse among herbivorous animals is very rare, and 
in the hog can result only from its eating the flesh of animals infested 
with the parasite. The only two animals of the farm known to be 

« Report on Plague in the United Provinces by Maj. Chator White, 1906. 


subject to the parasite are the rat and the hog itself. Pork becomes 
trichinous, then, only when swine eat the flesh of infested rats or 
hogs. Country slaughterhouses, where rats are abundant and swine 
are fed on offal, are the chief sources of trichinous pork. a 

A writer in The Spectator (London) states that septic pneumonia 
is sometimes the result of drinking water from shallow wells in which 
rats have been drowned and their bodies left to decay. He adds 
further that rats are "also disseminators of every kind of disease 
which can be conveyed into and from drains; for of all highways a 
rat loves a drain the best." b What visions of typhoid, scarlet, and 
malarial fevers, diphtheria, and other malignant diseases are aroused 
by such a statement ! It is probable that many disease germs adhere 
to rats' feet and are thus carried to places where they threaten human 
health. Ptomaines are said to be sometimes conveyed to meats 
or other human foods in this way. On the whole, hygienic consider- 
ations furnish the strongest argument for the extermination of rats. 


Except that to a limited extent rats act as scavengers, they ren- 
der no important service to man. In former times, doubtless, their 
work as scavengers in cities was of considerable value, but modern 
methods of garbage disposal make this service insignificant. 


It is not creditable to our civilization that a creature so noxious 
as the rat should continue to flourish. The fact that it lives in sur- 
roundings of dirt, disorder, and waste, while it preys on the best of 
our productions, makes its constant increase a matter for chagrin. 
The animal has developed such an extraordinary degree of sagacity 
under persecution that attempts to exterminate it have been largely 
wasted. The failure of these efforts has not been due to lack of effect- 
ive methods so much as to negligence and the absence of concerted 
action. Besides, as already stated, we have rendered our work 
abortive by continuing to provide subsistence and hiding places for 
the rat. When once these advantages are denied to the animals, 
persistent and concerted application of the best methods of destroy- 
ing them will prove far more effective. 

The more important means of fighting rats are considered under 
five captions: (1) Natural enemies of the rat, (2) rat-proof con- 
struction of buildings, (3) keeping food from rats, (4) driving away 

rats, (5) destroying rats. 

. i— , . . . , 

« Circular 108, Bureau of Animal Industry, p. 1, 1907. 
&The Spectator, vol. 95, p. 603, October 21, 1895. 



The extent to which predatory mammals and birds feed upon ro- 
dents should be more generally understood. Probably the greatest 
factor in the increase of rats, mice, and other destructive rodents 
in the United States has been the persistent killing off of the birds 
and mammals that prey upon them. Too often the slaughter is 
based upon ignorance of the animal's real economic value. Ani- 
mals that on the whole are decidedly beneficial are habitually de- 
stroyed because they occasionally transgress. Thus, warfare is 
made on the skunk and many kinds of hawks and owls that 
occasionally destroy a chicken or a game bird but which habitually 
subsist upon harmful insects and rodents. Among the natural 
enemies of the rat are the larger hawks and owls, skunks, foxes, 
coyotes, weasels, minks, and a few other mammals. To these must 
be added the domestic dogs, cats, and ferrets. 


Several kinds of hawks feed on rats, usually during the season 
when the latter infest the fields; for hawks, because of persecution, 
do not often stay about farm buildings. Hence, ordinarily hawks 
have few opportunities to prey on these denizens of house and barn. 

In open fields, however, rats often come out in daytime, espe- 
cially in early morning and late afternoon. Hawks are then on 
the lookout for prey, and many a rat is killed by them. The species 
of hawks that most commonly feed upon rats are: The buzzard 
hawks (Buteo), including the red-tailed (Buteoborealis and subspecies), 
the red-shouldered (B. lineatus), the broad-winged (B. platypterus) , 
and the Swainson (B. swainsoni); the rough-legged hawks (ArcM- 
buteo), two species; and probably the marsh harrier (Circus Tiud- 
sonius) . 


In destroying rats owls are more efficient than hawks, because 
they hunt at night, when the rodents are most active. All American 
owls except the most diminutive species kill rats. Even the little 
screech owl (Megascops asio) often feeds upon the young. 

Of all our owls, the barn owl (Strix pratincola) stands at the head 
in destructiveness to rats, since it often makes its home about farm 
buildings. Dr. A. K. Fisher, of the Biological Survey, has examined 
the pellets, or castings, of a pair of barn owls that live in the tower 
of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington and found in them 
skulls of 172 rats (Mus norvegicus). In addition, these birds had 
destroyed 1,285 field mice and 452 house mice. 

Dr. John I. Northrop found a nest of the barn owl on Andros 
Island, Bahamas, which held two young birds not yet. able to fly. 
The ground around the nest was covered with pellets which contained 


remains of the black rat and no other species. a This circumstance 
shows that the birds feed on whatever rodents are most abundant 
and most easily obtainable. In the event of a general invasion of 
rats in any locality where these owls stay, the birds would be most 
efficient aids in their destruction. 

The great horned owl (Bubo virginianus) is the largest of our resi- 
dent owls, and usually is a most useful bird. True, he captures the 
farmer's fowls when roosting unsheltered on fences or in trees, but 
such loss is easily prevented. The owl captures many rats, especially 
when they are plentiful. Mr. Charles Dury, of Ohio, in 1886 pub- 
lished a letter from O. E. Niles in which the latter states that under 
one nest of the great horned owl he counted 113 dead rats. 6 

The snowy owl is a rather rare winter visitor in the United States. 
Usually it arrives when the ground is covered with snow and ©rdinary 
food is scarce. Near barns, outbuildings, and stacks the brown rat 
is its chief reliance, and if undisturbed these owls will stay for several 
weeks in the same locality feeding on these pests. 

The practice of killing hawks and owls should be discouraged. 
Game preservers, especially, should realize that the birds of prey 
would, if permitted to live, destroy rats that in the course of a year 
do ten times as much damage to game as the birds. The custom of 
paying bounties for killing birds of prey is a most unwise expenditure 
of public funds, harmful in its immediate results and pernicious in 
its influence on the community. 


The wild mammals that destroy rats are not numerous, and few of 
them resort much to localities favored by rats. Chief among those 
that do good work for the farmer in rat destruction are skunks, 
minks, and weasels. These all resort to the haunts of the rat, and 
are, in the main, useful. The mink is the only one that does damage 
enough to nearly offset its usefulness in destroying farm pests. 

Skunks. — Skunks are excellent ratters, and when they take up 
their abode on the premises of the farmer, will speedily destroy or 
drive away all rats and mice. This statement applies to both the 
large skunks (Mephitis) and the little spotted skunks (Spilogale). 
Unfortunately they are seldom allowed to tenant the premises without 
being molested by either dogs or men. When thus disturbed, the 
skunks emit the characteristic secretion, which is almost their only 
defense against enemies. Undisturbed, they are quite inoffensive 
and will stay about the farm buildings until rats and mice are no 
longer to be had. 

Skunks usually hunt by night, and hence poultry properly housed 
is safe from them. The larger skunks can not climb, and do not 

a The Auk, vol. 8, p. 75, 1891. 

& Jour. Cincinnati Soc. Nat. Hist., vol 8, p. 63, 1886. 


capture fowls that roost on elevated perches. Indeed, so few skunks 
ever kill poultry that warfare on the skunk family is not justi- 
fied. Besides destroying mice and rats, skunks are invaluable to the 
farmer as consumers of noxious insects, particularly cutworms, army 
worms, tobacco worms, white grubs, May beetles, grasshoppers, 
crickets, and sphinx moths. 

Weasels. — Weasels are good ratters and mousers. Several of the 
American species come about buildings and often perform excellent 
service in destroying rodents. They are more destructive to poultry 
than the skunk, for they can enter poultry houses through smaller 
openings, can climb to the roosts, and usually take more than one 
victim at a time. 

These traits make them efficient in destroying rodents also. The 
smaller 'species of weasels can follow a rat into its burrow and to 
nearly all its usual retreats. A single victim rarely satisfies it, and 
in a very short time it clears stackyard or shed of rats and mice. 

Our largest species of weasel, the black-footed ferret (Putorius 
nigripes), occasionally deserts its wild haunts and comes about build- 
ings in search of rats and mice. At Hays, Kans., during the summer 
of 1905, a black-footed ferret took up its abode under the board side- 
walk in the business part of the town, and the squealing of its vic- 
tims was frequently heard. 

As concerns the destruction of poultry by weasels, the same care 
necessary to exclude rats from the poultry house and yard will keep 
out the weasel also. When so excluded, the weasel does no harm 
about the premises, but may be depended upon to drive out or destroy 
the rats. 

Minks. — Minks surpass weasels in their destructiveness to poultry, 
and they feed on fish also. While excellent ratters, the increasing 
value of mink furs causes the animals to be so closely hunted that 
in most parts of the country they now exert little influence upon the 
numbers of rodent pests or upon the fortunes of the poultry grower 
or the fish culturist. 

The mongoose. — Among the natural enemies of rats are the various 
species of mongoose (Herpestes and Mongos). The mongoose was 
introduced into Jamaica and Hawaii many years ago to stay the 
depredations of rats upon sugar cane and other products. While it 
kills many rats, it does not exterminate them, and it has proved a 
great scourge to poultry and native birds. It destroys also many 
lizards and other insectivorous animals. For these reasons its impor- 
tation into the United States is prohibited by law. 


The best way to exclude rats from buildings, whether in city or 
country, is by the use of cement in construction. As the advantages 
of this material are coming to be generally understood, its use is 


rapidly extending to all kinds of buildings. Dwellings, dairies, 
barns, stables, chicken houses, ice houses, bridges, dams, silos, tanks, 
cisterns, root cellars, hotbeds, sidewalks, and curbs are now often 
made wholly of cement. The processes of mixing and laying this 
material require little skill or special knowledge, and workmen of 
ordinary intelligence can successfully follow the plain directions 
contained in handbooks of cement construction. Illustrated hand- 
books are often furnished free by cement manufacturers. 

Many modern public buildings are so constructed that rats can find 
no lodgment in the walls or foundations, and- yet in a few years, 
through negligence, such buildings often become infested with the 
pests. Sometimes drain pipes are left uncovered for hours at a time. 
Often outer doors, especially those opening on alleys, are left ajar. 
A common mistake is failure to screen basement windows which 
must be opened for ventilation. In whatever way the intruders 
are admitted, when once inside they proceed to intrench themselves 
behind furniture or stores, and it is difficult to dislodge them. The 
addition of inner doors to vestibules is an important precaution 
against rats. The lower part of outer doors to public buildings, 
especially markets, should be reinforced with light metal plates to 
prevent the animals from gnawing through. 

In constructing dwelling houses the additional cost of making the 
foundations rat-proof is slight as compared with the advantages. 
The cellar walls should have concrete footings, and the walls them- 
selves be laid in cement mortar. The cellar floor should be of 
"medium" rather than "lean" concrete, and all water and drainpipes 
should be surrounded with concrete. Even old cellars may be made 
rat-proof at comparatively small expense. Rat holes may be per- 
manently closed with a mixture of cement, sand, and broken glass, 
or sharp bits of crockery or stone. 

On a foundation like the one described above, the walls of a wooden 
dwelling also may be made rat-proof. The space between the sheath- 
ing and lath, to the height of about a foot, should be filled with 
concrete. Rats can not then gain access to the walls, and can enter 
the dwelling only through doors or windows. Screening all basement 
and cellar windows with wire netting is a most necessary precaution 
to exclude rats. 

Rats sometimes gain access to houses by way of vines growing on 
the outer walls and reaching to open windows, and the means by 
which the animals come and go is a mystery to the household. Old 
growths of Virginia creeper or ivy often furnish such ladders for rats. 

Rats often enter houses from sewers by way of soil pipes leading 
into water-closets. A number of instances of this kind were reported 
to the writer as having occurred in the city of Washington during 
the past year. The careful construction of drains and the use of 


traps that rats can not pass through will prevent such invasion of 

In cities, aside from dwellings, the sewers, wharfs, stables, and 
outbuildings are the chief refuges for rats. Modern sewers are used 
by the animals only as highways and not as permanent abodes; but 
old-fashioned brick sewers often furnish nesting crannies. Openings 
from sewers to streets may easily be screened against rats, but with 
modern sewers this is unnecessary. 

Wharfs, stables, and outbuildings in cities should be constructed 
with a view to exclude rats. Cement is the chief means to this end. 
Old, tumble-down buildings and wharfs should not be tolerated in 
any city, but should be condemned and destroyed. 

Almost everywhere, in country, village, and city, the wooden floors 
of sidewalks, areas, and porches are commonly laid upon timbers 
resting upon the ground. Under these floors rats are safe from most 
of their enemies. Only municipal action can completely remedy 
these conditions, but all such rat harbors should be destroyed and 
replaced by cement floors. Considering durability, healthfulness, 
and other advantages, this material is the cheapest that can be used. 
The floors of wooden porches should always be well above the ground. 
Rats often undermine brick walks or areas. 

Granaries, corncribs, and poultry houses may be made rat-proof 
by a liberal use of concrete in the foundations and floors; or the 
floors may be of wood resting upon concrete. Objection has been 
urged against the use of concrete floors for horses, cattle, and poultry, 
because the material is too good a conductor of heat and the health 
of the animals suffers from contact with floors of this kind. In 
poultry houses, dry soil or sand may be used as a covering for the 
cement floor; and in stables, a wooden floor resting on the concrete 
is just as satisfactory so far as the exclusion of rats is concerned. 

The common practice of setting corncribs on posts with inverted 
pans at the top often fails to exclude rats, because the posts are not 
high enough to place the lower cracks of the structure beyond reach 
of the animals. The posts should project at least 3 feet above the 
surface of the ground, for rats are excellent jumpers. But a crib 
built in this manner, though cheap, is unsightly. 

For a rat-proof crib a well-drained site should be chosen. The 
outer walls, laid in cement, should be sunk about 20 inches into the 
ground. The space within the walls should be thoroughly grouted 
with cement and broken stone and finished with "rich" concrete for 
a floor. Upon this the structure may be built. Even the walls of 
the crib may be concrete. Corn will not mold in contact with them, 
provided there is good ventilation and the roof is water-tight. 

However, there are cheaper ways of excluding rats from either 
new or old corncribs. Rats, mice, and sparrows may be effectually 


kept out by the use of either an inner or an outer covering of galvan- 
ized-wire netting of half-inch mesh and heavy enough to resist the 
teeth of rats. The netting in common use for screening cellar windows 
is suitable for covering cribs. As rats can climb the netting, the 
entire structure must be screened. 


The effect of an abundance of food on the breeding of rodents has 
already been mentioned. Well-fed rats mature quickly, breed often, 
and have large litters of young. Besides limiting reproduction, 
scarcity of food will make the measures to destroy the animals by 
traps, poisons, or bacterial cultures far more effective. 

The general rat-proofing of buildings is the most important step 
in limiting the food supply of rats. But since much of the animals' 
food consists of garbage and other waste materials, it is not enough 
to bar rats from markets, granaries, warehouses, and private food 
stores. Garbage or offal of any kind must be so disposed of that 
rats can not obtain it. 

In cities and towns an efficient system of garbage collection and 
disposal should be established by ordinances. Waste from markets, 
hotels, cafes, and households should be collected in covered metallic 
receptacles and emptied each day. Garbage should never be dumped 
in or near towns, but should be utilized or promptly destroyed by fire. 

Rats find abundant food in country slaughterhouses ; reform in the 
management of these is badly needed. It is a common practice to 
leave offal of slaughtered animals to be eaten by both rats and swine. 
Such places are not only centers of rat propagation, but are the chief 
means of perpetuating trichinae in pork. All this should be changed 
by law. The offal should be promptly cremated or otherwise dis- 
posed of. There is no reason why country slaughterhouses should 
not be as cleanly as constantly inspected abattoirs. 

Another important source of rat food is the remnants of lunches 
left by employees in factories, stores, and public buildings. This 
food, which alone is sufficient to attract and sustain a small army of 
rats, is commonly left in waste baskets or other open receptacles. 
Strictly enforced rules requiring all remnants of food to be deposited 
in covered vessels would make trapping far more effective. 

If buildings are infested with rats, wire-screened compartments 
should be used for storing food. Many merchants now keep flour, 
seeds, meats, and the like in wire cages, and the practice should be 
general. Ice boxes and cold-storage rooms may be made proof 
against rats by an outer covering of heavy wire netting of half-inch 
mesh. Steamboat companies engaged in carding high-priced south- 
ern produce to northern markets can, at small expense, protect the veg- 
etables or fruits in screened compartments on both docks and vessels. 



Many devices have been recommended for driving rats from prem- 
ises. Some are based upon superstitions and have no merit; others 
are more or less practical. It should be remembered, however, that 
the community gains nothing when rats merely migrate from one 
dwelling or plantation to another. Nothing short of destruction of 
the animals is an adequate measure of relief. Occasionally, however, 
under certain circumstances it may be desirable to drive rats from a 
particular place, dwelling, or apartment. 

Rats frequently shift their quarters, thus making it difficult to 
judge accurately the success of measures employed against them. 
They often of their own volition move to new grounds, and the change 
is wrongly attributed to means used to drive them away or to destroy 
them. This explains the diverse results that sometimes follow appli- 
cations of the same remedy. 

Among methods for driving away rats that have proved useful 
under some circumstances are the following: 

1. Freshly slaked lime placed dry in all burrows and runs of rats. 

2. Freshly made thin whitewash poured into the rat burrows. 

3. A strong solution of copperas (ferrous sulphate) sprinkled in 
runs and burrow entrances. 

4. Chlorid of lime, loose or wrapped in old rags, placed in burrows 
and runs. 

5. Gas tar daubed about the burrow entrances. 

6. Powdered red pepper scattered in rat runs and burrows. 

7. Caustic potash placed in the burrows and runs. 

The following have been so often suggested that they are men- 
tioned here, though they have little to recommend them: Fastening 
a small bell to the neck of a live rat (by means of wire) and releasing 
the animal in the infested place; singeing or daubing with gas tar; 
feeding the rats plaster of Paris mixed with twice its bulk of meal, 
both dry. Of most of these the writer can not speak from experi- 
ence. With reference to the last, however, it may be stated that 
caged rats ate plaster of Paris, mixed with flour or meal in various 
proportions, freely and without injury. The setting quality of the 
plaster was first carefully tested. Several days after the experiment 
the rats were killed and examined. Their digestive organs were in 
normal condition. These experiments completely disprove the often- 
repeated statement that plaster of Paris mixed with meal solidifies 
in the stomachs of rats. It may be stated further that the same 
rats ate freely and without harm pieces of cork and sponge that had 
been fried in lard. The results show that these substances, so fre- 
quently recommended, have no value in killing rats. 



The Biological Survey has made both laboratory and field experi- 
ments with various agencies for destroying rats. The results obtained 
form the chief basis for the recommendations set forth in the following 
pages. • 


Owing to their cunning it is not easy to clear premises of rats by 
trapping. A few adults refuse to enter the most innocent-looking 
trap. And yet trapping, if persistently followed, is one of the most 
effective ways of destroying the animals. For general use the 
improved modern traps with a wire fall released by a baited trigger 
and driven by a coiled spring have marked advantages over the old 
forms, and many of them may be used at the same time. These 
traps, sometimes called guillotine traps, are of many designs, but the 
more simply constructed are to be preferred. Probably those made 
entirely of metal are the best, as they are more durable and are less 
likely to absorb and retain odors. 

In illustration of the effectiveness of traps it may be related that 
about three years ago a large department store in Washington expe- 
rienced heavy losses of gloves, lace curtains, and other merchandise 
from rat depredations. After they had made many unsuccessful 
attempts to abate the nuisance, the managers were advised to try the 
improved traps. As a result 136 rats were killed during the first 
20 nights, when the losses practically ceased, and trapping has been 
continued in the store ever since with satisfactory results. 

Guillotine traps should be baited with small pieces of Vienna 
sausage (Wienerwurst) or fried bacon. A small section of an ear of 
corn is an excellent bait if. other grain is not present. The trigger 
wire should be bent inward to bring the bait into proper position to 
permit the fall to strike the rat in the neck, as shown in the illustra- 
tion (fig. 2). 

Other excellent baits for rats are oatmeal, toasted cheese, toasted 
bread (buttered), fish, fish offal, fresh liver, raw meat, pine nuts, apples, 
carrots, corn, and sunflower, squash, or .pumpkin seeds. Broken 
fresh eggs are good bait at all seasons, and ripe tomatoes, green cucum- 
bers, and other fresh vegetables are very tempting to the animals in 
winter. When seed, grain, or meal is used with a guillotine trap, it 
is placed on the trigger plate, or the trigger wire may be bent outward 
and the bait sprinkled under it. 

When rats are numerous, the large French wire cage traps can be 
used to advantage. They should be made of stiff, heavy wire, well 
reenforced. Many of those sold in hardware stores are useless, 
because a full-grown rat can bend the light wires apart and escape. 



Cage traps should be baited and left open for several nights until the 
rats are accustomed to enter them to obtain food. They should 
then be closed and freshly baited, when a large catch may be ex- 
pected, especially of young rats. As many as 25, and even more, 
partly grown rats have been taken at a time in one of these traps. 

Fig. 2.— Method of baiting guillotine trap. 

The editor of The Field (London), commenting on a letter from a 
correspondent who complained of lack of success with the cage trap, 

Rats are not fools and men are not always wise enough to circumvent them. We 
have had this trap lying in the open and not a rat would touch it, but taken up and 
a little refuse fish put into it and an old mat over it, we got some lovely specimens 
next morning. A successful trapper says that even when he gets a rat in this trap he 
does not disturb it, but feeds it, and sometimes he has 8 or 9 other rats come in to 
keep it company, a 

The writer has had excellent success by concealing a cage trap 
under a bunch of hay or straw, and has found by experience that a 
decoy rat is useful. A commission merchant in Baltimore places 
the baited cage trap inside of a wooden box having a hole in one end 
and against which the opening of the trap is fitted. The box is then 
covered with trash and large catches are made. 

Notwithstanding the fact that sometimes a large number of rats 
may be taken at a time in cage traps, in the long run a few good 
guillotine traps intelligently used will prove more effective. 

The old-fashioned box trap set with a figure-4 trigger is sometimes 
useful to secure a wise old rat that refuses to be enticed into a modern 

a The Field (London), vol. 89, p. 692, May 1, 1897. 

TEAPS. 43 

trap. Better still is a simple deadfall — a flat stone or a heavy plank — 
supported by a figure-4 trigger. An old rat will go under such a 
contrivance to feed without fear. 

The ordinary steel trap (No. or 1) may sometimes be satisfac- 
torily employed to capture a rat. The animal is usually caught by 
the foot, and its squealing has a tendency to frighten other rats. 
The trap may be set in a shallow pan or box and covered with bran 
or oats, care being taken to have the space under the trigger pan 
free of grain. This may be done by placing a very light bit of cotton 
under the trigger and setting as lightly as possible. In narrow runs 
or at the mouth of burrows a steel trap unbaited and covered with 
very light cloth or tissue paper is often effective. 

The best bait to use in trapping is usually food of a kind that the 
rats do not get in the vicinity. In a meat market vegetables or grain 
should be used; in a feed store, meat. As far as possible, food other 
than the bait should be inaccessible while trapping is in progress. 
The bait should be kept fresh and attractive, and the kind changed 
when necessary. Baits and traps should be handled as little as pos- 
sible. Ordinarily, traps should be frequently cleaned or smoked. 
The use of artificial scents, as oil of anise or rhodium, on the bait is 
advocated by many, but no doubt their importance has been exag- 
gerated. The experience of the writer is not favorable to their use, 
but they may do some good by concealing the human odor on the 

Barrel trap. — About sixty years ago a writer in the Corn hill Mag- 
azine gave details of a trap by means of which it was claimed that 
3,000 rats were caught in a warehouse in a single night. The plan 
involved tolling the rats to the place and feeding them for several 
nights on the tops of barrels covered with coarse brown paper. 
Afterwards a cross was cut in the paper, so that the rats fell into the 
barrel (fig. 3). Many variations of the plan, but few improvements 
upon it, have been suggested by agricultural writers since that time. 
Reports are frequently made of large catches of rats by means of a 
barrel fitted with a light cover of wood, hinged on a rod so as to turn 
with the weight of a rat (fig. 3). 

Fence and battues. — In the rice fields of the Far East the natives 
build numerous piles of brush and rice straw and leave them for sev- 
eral days until many rats have taken shelter in them. A portable 
bamboo inclosure several feet in height is then set up around each 
pile in succession and the straw and brush are thrown out over the 
top while dogs and men kill the trapped rodents. Large numbers 
are killed in this way, and the plan with modifications may be util- 
ized in America with satisfactory results. A wire netting of fine 
mesh ma} x be used for the inclosure. The scheme is applicable at 
the removal of grain, straw, or haystacks, as well as brush piles. 



In a large barn near Washington, a few years ago, piles of unhusked 
corn shocks were left in the loft and were soon infested with rats. 
A wooden pen was set down surrounding the piles in turn and the corn 
thrown out until dogs were able to get at the rats. In this way 
several men and dogs killed 500 rats in a single day. 

Burmese rat trap. — The Burmese use an ingenious and simple 
method of trapping rats. A large jar with a weighted cover is sunken 
into the ground (fig. 4). A hole is punched in the side of the jar 
on a level with the surface of the ground and just large enough to 

/ 2 

Fig. 3. — Barrel traps: 1, With stiff paper cover; 2, with hinged barrel cover; a, stop; b, baits. 

admit a large rat. Paddy (rice) is used in the jar as a bait. A 
writer states that he saw 72 rats caught in one such trap the first 
night it was set. a 


While the use of poison is the best and quickest way to get rid of 
rats, the odor from the dead animals makes the method impracticable 
in occupied houses. Poison, however, may be effectively used in 
barns, stables, sheds, cribs, and other outbuildings. 

Among the principal poisons that have been recommended for 
killing rats are barium carbonate, strychnine, arsenic, and phosphorus. 

Barium carbonate. — One of the cheapest and most effective poisons 
for rats and mice is barium carbonate. 6 This mineral has the advan- 
tage of being without taste or smell. It has a corrosive action on the 
mucous lining of the stomach and is dangerous to larger animals if 

«The Field (London), vol. 35, p. 286, 1870. 

& Barium carbonate, as well as some other salts of barium, is often called "barytes. " 
In its native form it is known as ' ' witherite. " True barytes is barium sulphate, which 
is too insoluble for practical use as a poison for rats. 



taken in sufficient quantity. In the small doses fed to rats and mice 
it would be harmless to domestic animals. Its action upon rats is 
slow, and if exit is possible, they usually leave the premises in search 
of water. For this reason the poison may frequently, though not 
always, be used in houses without disagreeable consequences. 

Barium carbonate may be fed in the form of dough composed of 
four parts of meal or flour and one part of the mineral. A more 
convenient bait is ordinary oatmeal with about one-eighth of its 
bulk of the mineral, mixed with water into a stiff dough. A third 
plan is to spread the barium carbonate upon fish, toasted bread 
(moistened) , or ordinary bread and butter. The prepared bait should 

Fig. 4.— A Burmese trap. 

be placed in rat runs, a small quantity — as a teaspoonful — at a place. 
If a single application of the poison fails to kill or drive away all rats 
from the premises, it should be repeated with a change of bait. 

Strychnine. — Strychnine is too rapid in action to make its use as a 
poison for rats desirable in houses, but elsewhere it may be. employed 
effectively. Strychnia sulphate is the form best adapted for use. 
The dry crystals may be inserted in small pieces of raw meat, Vienna 
sausage, or toasted cheese, and these placed in rat runs or burrows; 
or oatmeal may be moistened with a strychnine sirup, and small 
quantities laid in the same way. 

Strychnine sirup is prepared as follows: Dissolve a half ounce of 
strychnia sulphate in a pint of boiling water; add a pint of thick 
sugar sirup and stir thoroughly. A smaller quantity of the poison 
may be prepared with a proportional quantity of water. In preparing 
the bait it is necessary that all the oatmeal should be moistened with 


sirup. Wheat is the most convenient alternative bait. It should 
be soaked over night in the strychnine sirup. 

The bitterness of strychnine often prevents rats from eating baits 
containing the crystals. This trouble may sometimes be overcome 
by first feeding the baits without the strychnine for several successive 
nights until suspicion is allayed. 

Arsenic. — Nearly all commercial rat poisons have either arsenic or 
phosphorus as a basis; and while many of them are effective, the 
poison is often present in quantities too small to be fatal to rats. 
It has been proved by experiment that sometimes rats have great 
power of resistance to some poisons, particularly to arsenic. Yet 
arsenic is an excellent rat poison, as is shown by its continued popu- 
larity. Its cheapness commends it to favor; yet the experiments 
of the Biological Survey show that strychnine, measured by the 
results obtained, is really the cheaper poison for most rodents. 

Powdered white arsenic (arsenious acid) may be fed to rats in 
nearly any of the baits mentioned under barium carbonate and 
strychnine. It has been used successfully when rubbed into fresh 
fish or spread on buttered toast. Another method is to mix twelve 
parts by weight of corn meal and one part of arsenic with whites of 
eggs into a stiff dough. 

An old formula for poisoning rats and mice with arsenic is the 
following, adapted from an English source : 

Take a pound of oatmeal, a pound of coarse brown sugar, and a 
spoonful of arsenic. Mix well together and put the composition into 
an earthen jar. Place a tablespoonful at a place in runs frequented 
by rats. 

Phosphorus. — This is probably the most widely used poison for 
rats and mice, and undoubtedly it is effective when given in an 
attractive bait. The phosphorus paste of the drug stores is usually 
dissolved yellow phosphorus mixed with glucose or other substances. 
The proportion of phosphorus varies from one-fourth percent to 4 
percent. The first amount is too small to be always effective, and 
the last is dangerously inflammable. When home-made prepara- 
tions of phosphorus are used, there is much danger of burning the 
person or of setting fire to crops or buildings. In the western States 
many fires have resulted from putting out home-made phosphorus 
poisons for ground squirrels, and entire fields of ripe grain have been 
destroyed in this way. Even with the commercial pastes the action 
of sun and rain upon them changes the phosphorus and leaches out 
the glucose until a highly inflammable residue is left. 

It is often claimed that when phosphorus is eaten by rats or mice 
it dries up or mummifies the bodies so that no odor results. The 
statement has no foundation in fact. Equally misleading is the 


statement that rats poisoned with phosphorus do not die on the 
premises. Owing to its slower operation, no doubt a larger pro- 
portion escape into the open before dying than when strychnine is 

The Biological Survey does not recommend the use of phosphorus 
as a poison for rodents. 

Caution. — In the United States there are few laws which prohibit 
the laying of poisons on lands owned or controlled by the poisoner. 
Hence it is all the more necessary to exercise extreme caution to 
prevent accidents. In several States notice of intention to lay 
poison must be given to persons living in the neighborhood. Poison 
for rats should never be placed in open or unsheltered places. This 
applies particularly to the use of strychnine or arsenic on meat. 

Poison in poultry houses. — For poisoning rats in buildings and 
yards occupied by poultry, the following method is recommended: 
Two wooden boxes should be used, one considerably larger than the 
other, and each having two or more holes in the sides large enough to 
admit rats. The poisoned bait should be placed on the bottom and 
near the middle of the smaller box, and the larger box should then be 
inverted over the other. Rats thus have free access to the bait, but 
fowls are excluded. 

The following methods of poisoning rats are quoted as useful under 
certain circumstances : 

"I took a box, made several holes in it, turned it upside down, 
mixed strychnine and cheese together and put it under the box. I 
then placed a heavy weight on the box so that no domestic animal 
could get at it and put it in the granary and corncrib. This poison 
is best because it acts so quickly that rats do not have time to get 
back to their holes or crawl where any domestic animal can get at 
them and they can be gathered up and buried." a 

A writer in the Agricultural Gazette used barium carbonate on 
herrings, after first feeding the rats liberally on herrings to give them 
confidence. After a couple of nights' feeding, the poisoned herrings 
were substituted. The barytes was rubbed into the herrings with a 
stick. Many rats were killed. b 

Use any kind of wooden box, like an old packing case. Make three 
or four holes in each box large enough to allow a rat to enter. Feed 
meal for several days; then omit for one day. Then mix arsenic 
with the meal. c 

To destroy rats on farms. — Each evening when the cows are milked 
place a little fresh milk in a shallow pan where the rats can get it. 

a A. E. L. in Mo. Valley Farmer for April, 1907. 

& American Agriculturist, vol. 9, p. 257, August, 1850. 

cThe Field (London), vol. 96, p. 624, October 30, 1900. 


Continue this for a week or more until the rats get bold and impatient 
to get at the milk. Then mix arsenic with the milk and await results. 
This plan is said to entirely clean a barn of rats. a 


Among the domestic animals often employed to kill rats are the 
familiar dog, cat, and ferret. 

Dogs. — The value of dogs as ratters can not be appreciated by per- 
sons who have had no experience with a trained animal. The ordi- 
nary cur and the larger breeds of dogs seldom develop the necessary 
qualities for ratters. Small Irish, Scotch, and fox terriers when 
properly trained are superior to other breeds, and under favorable 
circumstances may be relied upon to keep the farm premises reason- 
ably free from rats. 

With some preliminary training most terriers learn to hunt rats 
independently and thus become doubly useful on the farm. Several 
terriers owned in Washington are said to have destroyed over 1,000 
rats each, and the owner of one of them states that his dog has 
killed that number in one year. A young terrier kept in the National 
Capitol is said to have destroyed over 400 rats in that building. 

Cats. — However valuable cats may be as mousers, few of them 
learn to catch rats. The ordinary house cat is too well fed and con- 
sequently too lazy to undertake the capture of an animal as formi- 
dable as the brown rat. Birds and mice are much more to its liking. 

Ferrets. — Tame ferrets, like weasels, are inveterate foes of rats, 
and can follow the rodents into their retreats. Under favorable cir- 
cumstances they are useful aids to the rat catcher, but their value is 
greatly overestimated. For effective work they require experienced 
handfing and the additional services of a dog or two. Dogs and 
ferrets must be thoroughly accustomed to each other, and the former 
must be quiet and steady instead of noisy and excitable. The ferret 
is used only to bolt the rats, which are killed by the dogs. If un- 
muzzled ferrets are sent into rat retreats, they are apt to make a kill 
and then lie up after sucking the blood of their victim. Sometimes 
they remain for hours in -the burrows or escape by other e^dts and 
are lost. There is danger that these lost ferrets may adapt them- 
selves to wild conditions and become a pest by preying upon poultry 
and birds. 


Rats may be destroyed in their burrows in the fields and along" 
river banks, levees, and dikes by the use of carbon bisulphid. A 
wad of cotton or other absorbent material is saturated with the 
liquid and then pushed into the burrow, the opening being packed 
with earth to prevent the escape of the gas. All animals in the 

aE. H. Reihl, in Colman's Rural World, vol. 61, p. 27, January 29, 1908. 


burrow are asphyxiated. Fumigation in buildings is rarely effective, 
because it is difficult to confine the gases. Moreover, when effective, 
the odor from the dead rats is highly objectionable. 

Chlorin, carbon monoxid, sulphur dioxid and hydrocyanic acid 
are the gases most used for destroying rats and mice in sheds, ware- 
houses, and stores. Each is effective if the gas can be confined and 
made to reach the retreats of the animals. Owing to the great dan- 
ger from fire incident to burning charcoal or sulphur in open pans, a 
special furnace provided with means for forcing the gas into the com- 
partments of vessels or buildings is generally employed. 

Hydrocyanic-acid gas is effective in destroying all animal life in 
buildings. It has been successfully used to free elevators and ware- 
houses of rats, mice, and insects. However, it is so dangerous to 
human life that the novice should not attempt fumigation with it, 
except under careful instructions. Directions for preparing and 
using the gas may be found in ' ' Hydrocyanic-acid Gas against House- 
hold Insects," by Dr. L. O. Howard. 

Carbon monoxid is rather dangerous, as its presence in the hold of 
a vessel or other apartment is not manifest to the senses, and fatal 
accidents have occurred during its employment to fumigate vessels. 

Chlorin gas has a strong bleaching action upon textile fabrics and 
for this reason can not be used in many situations. 

Sulphur dioxid also has a bleaching effect upon textiles, but less 
marked than that of chlorin and ordinarily not noticeable with the 
small percentage of the gas it is necessary to use. On the whole, this 
gas has many advantages as a fumigator and disinfectant. It is 
successfully employed also as a fire extinguisher on board vessels. 

The port regulations for destroying rats to prevent the introduc- 
tion of plague and to disinfect merchandise and personal effects of 
passengers have generally been made to conform to the opinion of 
health officers that thorough fumigation with sulphur dioxid forced 
into every part of a ship meets all requirements, and the long delays 
of quarantine are thus avoided. A number of important steamship 
companies have fitted their vessels with special apparatus for gener- 
ating the gas and forcing it into the compartments of their ships, 
and the authorities of some ports have fitted the docks with such 
apparatus for use on all incoming vessels. 

While the chief object of the port regulations for disinfecting ships 
is to prevent the introduction of plague and similar diseases, the 
advantages of having vessels free from rats and other vermin are of 
sufficient importance to warrant the outlay for apparatus. The 
numbers of rats on shipboard and the amount of mischief they are 
capable of are not always appreciated. A French maritime journal 

a Circular 46, Bureau of Entomology, U. S. Dept. of Agric, 1907. 


is authority for the statement that in May, 1901, after the steam- 
ship Minnehaha of the Atlantic Transport Company had been disin- 
fected at the London dock by the use of sulphur dioxid over 1,300 
dead rats were found in the holds. The vessel had been in commis- 
sion only about nine months, carrying flour, grain, and provisions 
between New York and London, and the finding of so many rats 
was a complete surprise to the ship's officers. 


At irregular intervals when rodents become overabundant, con- 
tagious diseases break out and destroy large numbers. Such dis- 
eases have been known to occur among ground squirrels, prairie dogs, 
rabbits, lemmings, house mice, field mice, and rats. They occur 
also, occasionally, where numbers of the animals are brought to- 
gether in confined quarters. Observations of such epidemics have 
encouraged bacteriologists to experiment in inducing diseases arti- 
ficially for the purpose of destroying rodent pests. 

The problem of the bacteriologist is to find an organism that will 
destroy a given species by contagious disease, and yet be harmless to 
all other animals, whether wild or domesticated. From a scientific 
standpoint some progress has been made toward the solution of such 
problems, but practical results are still lacking. The rat has been 
the subject of more experiments than any other animal, but attempts 
to destroy it by epidemics have not yet advanced beyond the ex- 
perimental stage. 

Several micro-organisms, or bacteria, have been exploited in Europe 
and America for destroying rats. A number are on the market in 
the United States. The Biological Survey has made laboratory and 
field experiments with some of them, and has also received many 
reports from others who have tried the cultures in a practical way. 
The results are by no means uniform, although the majority are nega- 
tive. The cultures tested by the Survey have given poor results. 

The chief defects to be overcome before the cultures can be recom- 
mended for general use are — 

1. The virulence is not great enough to kill a sufficiently high 
percentage of rats that eat food containing the micro-organisms. 

2. The virulence decreases with the age of the cultures. They 
deteriorate in warm weather and in bright sunlight. 

3. The diseases resulting from the micro-organisms are not conta- 
gious and do not spread by contact of diseased with healthy animals. 

4. The comparative cost of the cultures is too great for general 
use. Since they have no advantages over the common poisons, 
except that they are harmless to man and other animals, they should 
be equally cheap; their actual cost is much greater. Moreover, con- 


sidering the skill and care necessary in their preparation, it is doubt- 
ful if the cost can be greatly reduced. 

However, the possibilities in the use of contagious diseases for 
destroying rats have not been exhausted. It is not improbable that 
a virulent bacterium, pathogenic for rats and similar rodents only, 
exists, and that vigilant search will discover it. Bacteriological 
science is in its infancy and may be expected to make further dis- 
coveries of great economic importance. A rat disease, truly conta- 
gious, harmless to other animals, and capable of being used at will 
would be a boon worth many millions of dollars annually to the people 
of the United States. 


The necessity of cooperation and organization in the work of rat 
destruction should not be overlooked. To destroy all the animals 
on the premises of a single farmer in a community has little perma- 
nent value, since they are soon replaced from near-by farms. If, 
however, the farmers of an entire township or county unite in 
efforts to get rid of rats, much more lasting results may be attained. 
Such organized efforts repeated with reasonable frequency are very 

Cooperative efforts to destroy rats have taken various forms in 
different localities. In cities municipal employees have occasion- 
ally been set at work hunting rats from their retreats with at least 
temporary benefit to the community. Thus, in 1904, at Folkestone, 
England, a town of about 25,000 inhabitants, the corporation em- 
ployees, helped by dogs, in three days killed 1,645 rats. a 

Side hunts in which rats are the only animals that count in the 
contest have sometimes been organized and successfully carried out. 
At New Burlington, Ohio, a rat hunt took place November 26, 1866, 
in which each of the two sides killed over 8,000 rats, the beaten 
party serving a Thanksgiving banquet to the winners. 6 

At about the same period county agricultural societies sometimes 
offered prizes to the family presenting the largest number of rat 
tails as evidence that the animals had been destroyed. Even as late 
as May 2, 1907, in one of the counties of Kentucky, by general con- 
sent, the day was set apart for killing rats, and, according to news- 
paper reports, was quite generally observed. 

There is danger that organized rat hunts will be followed by long 
intervals of indifference and inaction. This may be prevented by 
offering prizes covering a definite period of effort. Such prizes 
accomplish more than municipal bounties, because they secure a 

« The Field (London), vol. 104, p. 98, July 16, 1904. 
b American Naturalist, vol. 26, p. 8, January, 1867. 


friendly rivalry which stimulates the contestants to do their utmost 
to win. 

In England and some of its colonies contests for prizes have been 
organized to promote the destruction of the European house sparrow, 
but many of the so-called "sparrow clubs" are really sparrow and rat 
clubs, for the destruction of both pests are avowed objects of the 
organization. A sparrow club in Kent, England, secured the destruc- 
tion of 28,000 sparrows and 16,000 rats in three seasons, by the 
annual expenditure of but £6 ($29.20) in prize money. a Had ordi- 
nary bounties been paid for this destruction, the tax on the com- 
munity would have been about £250 (over $1,200). 


Perhaps the most extensive campaign ever organized against rats 
is that undertaken by L' Association Internationale pour le Destruc- 
tion Rationelle des Rats, a society which originated in Denmark and 
was organized through the influence of a civil engineer named Emil 
Zuschlag. The purposes of the society are to spread information con- 
cerning the mischief done by rats and to carry on a general cam- 
paign for their destruction. The influence of the organization has 
already borne fruit in increased activity in fighting rats in Denmark, 
Sweden, Saxony, and other countries. In Denmark and Sweden a 
system of small bounties for killing rats has for several years been 
in general operation in some of the larger cities, and the Danish Par- 
liament has made appropriations to assist municipalities throughout 
that Kingdom in paying premiums for the work of destruction. 
General supervision of the work is in the hands of the society, which 
receives regular quarterly reports of progress made in the various 
municipalities. The form of report is shown in Plate III, which is 
an exact copy of the report for the city of Copenhagen for the last 
quarter of 1907. The premiums paid are usually small — from 5 to 10 
ore (1J to 2§ cents) for each rat. Mr. Zuschlag recently reported that 
under the Danish law appropriating government funds for the prose- 
cution of the society's work, 1,141,293 rats were destroyed during 
the first year, ending July 1, 1908. 6 

In the city of Copenhagen and its suburbs the campaign began in 
December, 1899, and 103,000 rats were destroyed during the first 
eighteen weeks. The premium paid was 10 ore for each rat, but 
other expenses brought the total cost to about $3,450. The society 
estimated that during one year 100,000 rats would commit depreda- 
tions upon property amounting to $97,820; by the work of destruc- 
tion the city had, therefore, been saved the sum of $94,370. c During 

a Jour. Board of Agr. Great Britain, vol. 9, p. 342, 1902. 

b Jour. Inc. Soc. for Dest. Vermin, vol. 1, p. 32, October, 1908. 

cLe Rat Migratoire, Emil Zuschlag, p. 62, Copenhagen, 1908. 

Bui. 33. Biological Survey, U. S Dept. of Agriculture. 

Plate III. 


<? Kommunes Indbyggeranial <' 7 y ''< fi 

/> > / 
Kommunes Postadr&sse ■- 1 »'<''«<i'M*^ 


i Henhold til Lov af 22. Marts 1907 og Indenrigsministeriets Cirkulsere a( 1. Maj 1907 

til Oplysning om de i C%+4r^<Sr*^?^. Kommune i /*Aw^ Kvartals 

Maaneder drsebte Rotter og de for disse udbetalte BeUab, 

Praemiens Storrelse pr. Rotte 



Maaiied 190/ 

Antal Udbetalt 
draebte Praeraiebeleb 
Better j Kr . &„ 

Andre Udgifter 
Kr. Ore 

. Udbetalt ialt 
Kr. 0re 

lste Uge 

2&#/ 1 /Go af> 

2den - 

ZTZG | lol oh 

3die - 
4de - 

5te - 

ML M i 

ZSZ \3Z 

>V3Z * v 



70 72 0$ 

*f$Z <™ 


Maaned 190 / 

37 f 7 

>Ja$\ 76 , 


lste Uge 

2den - 
3die - 

4de - 
5te ' - 

9a J 1 

73 cz 

S3 Z 

P.2J ?Z 

35b .60 
J 73 , 96 
40 7, . S6 



7¥/%\ '7o 

'777Z re 


Maaned 190 7 

h 7£ 

.'■> z To - 



vzy ; ?z 

fU 60 
. ZJS\6$ 

776 o5 

7 is 

¥2& ' V*. 

/&7/ 6^9 

lste Uge 

2den - 
3die - 
4de - 
5te - 


7 A 155 

76 fo So 

7 ¥77 o7 

#o87 ft 

!ait for Kvartalet: 

Antal af draebte Rotter: 7) 6)5 7 (o 

Udbetalt for Prasmier: 7fi f 77 Kroner ^-O 

til RWeningen til lo\ 

vurdnet Udryddelse af Rotter. <'.(>lbjnrnsei)sgade 14. Kjuhenharn B. 

<^>^ Kommune. 

Copy of Quarterly Report of the Rats Destroyed in Copenhagen, October, 
November, and December, 1907. 


the last two quarters of 1907, in the same city, 83,832 rats were 
killed. The premiums, 8 ore per rat, amounted to $1,787.36 and the 
other expenses to $1,198.60, a total of $2,985.96. 

In the city of Stockholm, Sweden, the organized work of destroying 
rats began in February, 1901, and has progressed steadily for the 
past seven years. The premium paid is 5 ore per rat and the total 
number of animals upon which the bounty was paid during the first 
six years follows: 1901 (11 months), 146,191 rats; 1902, 96,443 rats; 
1903, 95,348 rats; 1904, 106,263 rats; 1905, 103,233 rats; 1906, 92,037 
rats; 1907, 72,282 rats; a total for seven years of 711,797 rats, upon 
which the premiums amounted to about $9,540. The results here 
given are hardly encouraging to those who hope for speedy extermi- 
nation of these pests in large cities. It shows that the animals repro- 
duce almost as rapidly as they are destroyed under the stimulus of a 
very small premium. 

The Danish Society for Rat Extermination has a membership of 
over 2,000 of the leading citizens of the Kingdom. It has interested 
and enrolled in its work leading men throughout Europe, and will 
undoubtedly exert a potent influence for good upon the entire world. 
As a public policy in America the wisdom of offering bounties for the 
destruction of noxious animals is open to question, but the Danish 
society does not confine its work to advocating a single plan for rat 
destruction. Its chief importance lies in its ability to awaken general 
interest in the work and to secure cooperation and system in carrying 
out definite plans. 

The influence of the Danish society has been manifested recently 
in the organization in England of the Incorporated Society for the 
Destruction of Vermin. The objects of attack are not only rats and 
mice, but also sparrows, ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, and flies. The 
immediate activities of the society are to be directed against the 
brown rat, of which species the society estimates that 40,000,000 
exist in the British Islands. The first number of a quarterly period- 
ical devoted to the objects of the society appeared in October, 19.08, 
and considerable interest has already been aroused. 


The following are important aids in limiting the numbers of rats 
and reducing the losses from their depredations : 

1. Protection of our native hawks, owls, and smaller predatory 
mammals — the natural enemies of rats. 

2. Greater cleanliness about stables, markets, grocery stores, 
warehouses, courts, alleys, and vacant lots in cities and villages, and 
like care on farms and suburban premises. This includes the storage 
of waste and garbage in tightly covered vessels and the prompt dis- 
posal of it each day. 


3. Care in the construction of buildings and drains so as not to 
provide entrance and retreats for rats, and the permanent closing of 
all rat holes in old houses and cellars. 

4. The early thrashing and marketing of grains on farms, so that 
stacks and mows shall not furnish harborage and food for rats. 

5. Removal of outlying straw stacks and piles of trash or lumber 
that harbor rats in the fields. 

6. Rat-proofing of warehouses, markets, cribs, stables, and grana- 
ries for storage of provisions, seed grain, and feedstuffs. 

7. Keeping effective rat dogs, especially in city warehouses. 

8. The systematic destruction of rats, whenever and wherever 
possible, by (a) trapping, (b) poisoning, and (c) organized hunts. 

9. The organization of ''rat clubs" and other societies for sys- 
tematic warfare against rats. 


Issued August 8, 1910. 







By F. E. L. BEAL 

Assistant, Biological Survey 



Bull. 34, Biological Survey, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture. 

Plate I 

California Quail 

Issued August 8, 1910. 





PART 1 1 

By F. E. L. BEAL 

Assistant, Biological Survey 





U. S. Department of Agriculture, 

Biological Survey, 

Washington, B.C., February 25, 1910. 
Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith for publication as 
Bulletin No. 34 of the Biological Survey, Part II of the Birds of Cali- 
fornia in Relation to the Fruit Industry, by Prof. F. E. L. Beal. 
This, the final part of the report, treats of some of the most important 
California birds from the standpoint of the orchardist and the farmer. 
Careful study of the food habits of birds that frequent orchards and 
their vicinity shows that most of the species are beneficial, and that 
without their aid the difficulty and expense of raising fruit would be 
enormously increased; still a few species under certain circumstances 
are harmful and need to be held in check. 

C. Hart Merriam, 

Chief, Biological Survey. 
Hon. James Wilson, 

Secretary of Agriculture. 



Introduction 7 

California quail 9 

Woodpecker family 14 

Hairy woodpecker 15 

Downy woodpecker 17 

Nuttall woodpecker 19 

Red-breasted sapsucker 21 

California woodpecker 22 

Red-shafted nicker 25 

Other woodpeckers 28 

Flycatcher family 29 

Ash-throated flycatcher 29 

Arkansas kingbird 32 

Cassin kingbird 34 

Say phoebe 35 

Black phoebe 36 

Western wood pewee 39 

Western flycatcher 41 

Other flycatchers 44 

Horned lark 44 

Jay family 47 

Steller jay 47 

California jay 50 

Blackbird, oriole, and meadowlark family 56 

Bicolored redwing 56 

Other redwings 59 

Brewer blackbird 59 

Western meadowlark 65 

Bullock oriole 68 

Sparrow family 71 

Willow goldfinch 71 

Green-backed goldfinch 73 

Intermediate and Nuttall sparrows 75 

Golden-crowned sparrow 78 

Western chipping sparrow 80 

Western snowbird 82 

Western song sparrow 84 

Spotted towhee 86 

California towhee 89 

Black-headed grosbeak 93 




Plate I. California quail Frontispiece. 

II . Arkansas kingbird 32 

III. California jay 50 

IV. Brewer blackbird 60 

V. Bullock oriole 68 

VI. Green-backed goldfinch 74 




The first part of the report on Birds of California in Relation to the 
Fruit Industry was published in 1907. In addition to the linnet or 
house finch, which has attracted wide attention and is the subject of 
much complaint, 37 other species were discussed. In the present 
and concluding part, the food habits of 32 additional species are 
treated. Among them are some of the most important birds of the 
State, regarded from the standpoint of the farmer and fruit grower. 
The aim has been to collect all data possible on the food of the sev- 
eral species, to consider the facts impartially, and to render a just 
verdict as to the birds' economic relations. 

All the birds whose food habits are discussed have direct relations 
with husbandry. It is true that many of them have not been charged 
with the destruction or injury of fruit or any other farm products. 
Almost all, however, destroy great numbers of harmful insects or 
devour seeds of noxious weeds; hence they are important econom- 

A large part of the present report consists of statements concerning 
the food actually found in the stomachs of the birds. In this connec- 
tion it should be borne in mind that by far the greater number of stom- 
achs used in this investigation were collected in the more thickly set- 
tled and highly cultivated parts of the State, so that they probably 
contain a larger proportion of the products of husbandry than would 
a series of stomachs taken at random from all parts of the range of 
each species. It goes without saying that fruit and grain can be 
eaten only by such birds as have access to those products, while birds 
living in uncultivated places must subsist upon the fruits of nature. 

Some California birds show a marked preference for oats, but in 
this State the presence of oats in a bird's stomach does not necessarily 
indicate that cultivated oats have been eaten, for wild oats cover 
hundreds of thousands of acres, and in the cultivated areas grow 
almost everywhere, affording a supply of food for many birds. 
Besides wild oats, the crop of volunteer oats that succeeds the cul- 
tivated crop is abundant and is to be found wherever this grain is 



grown. In fact, in California the eating of oats can not as a rule be 
counted against a bird. 

In no State in the Union is an accurate knowledge of the relations 
of birds to agriculture more important than in California. Climate 
and soil combine to make California an important grain and fruit pro- 
ducing State. The acreage already devoted to agriculture is large and 
is likely to increase for decades to come, as population increases and 
as new cultural methods are developed and irrigation is extended. 
Insects that now attract little attention are likely to increase and 
become serious pests. Certain birds formerly accustomed to a diet 
consisting partly of wild fruits, the supply of which is limited and 
likely to become smaller, will probably invade orchards and injure 
cultivated fruit. Hence it is worth while for the farmer and orchard- 
ist to learn as much as possible of the food of the birds that harbor 
near his premises, that he may know how much good each species 
does and how much harm, and so be enabled to strike a fair balance. 

Some birds, like the swallows, swifts, wrens, and chickadees, are 
so strictly insectivorous that they are exceedingly beneficial. All 
they require at the hands of man in return for their services is pro- 
tection. Others at some time of the year injure crops, though the 
damage by many is exceedingly small. Be the loss what it may, 
however, if a given species by its insectivorous habits prevents much 
greater destruction than it inflicts, the farmer should be willing to 
bear the loss for the sake of the greater gain. 

Few birds are always and everywhere so seriously destructive that 
their extermination can be urged on sound economic principles. 
Only four of the species common in California can be regarded as of 
doubtful utility: These are the linnet, California jay, Steller jay, and 
redbreasted sapsucker. When the known methods of protecting 
fruit have been exhausted, or can not be employed profitably, then 
a reasonable reduction of the numbers of the offending birds is per- 
missible. But the more the food habits of birds are studied the 
more evident is the fact that with a normal distribution of species 
and a fair supply of natural food, the damage to agricultural products 
by birds is small compared with the benefit. 

A reasonable way of viewing the relation of birds to the farmer is 
to consider birds as servants, employed to destroy weeds and insects. 
In return for this service they should be protected, and such as need 
it should receive a fair equivalent in the shape of fruit and small 
grain. Nothing can be more certain than that, except in a few cases, 
any farmer who is willing to pay the toll collected by birds for actual 
services rendered will be vastly benefited. In the long run, no part 
of the capital invested in farm or orchard is more certain to pay big 
interest than the small sum required for the care and protection of 



(Lophortyx californicus and vallicola.) 

The California quail (see frontispiece) is common and generally 
distributed over the State west of the Sierra, except at the higher 
altitudes, and is especially abundant in the fruit-raising sections. 
Like the bobwhite of the East, this quail never goes far from cover, 
and it delights to dwell on unimproved land where trees and chap- 
arral alternate with small areas of open ground. In settled regions 
it is somewhat domestic in habits and soon becomes accustomed to 
living in orchards, gardens, and cultivated grounds. The writer has 
seen a female sitting upon her eggs in a garden within 30 feet of a 
house, between which and the nest carriages and foot passengers 
passed many times eactuday. In winter a covey frequently feeds 
with the farmer's chickens, and if not disturbed will continue to do 
so until pairing time. 

The natural food of the quail consists of the seeds of that vast 
group of plants known as weeds, with a little foliage of the same, 
especially in winter, when the leaves are young and tender. Con- 
sidering how small is the amount of fruit usually found in the stomach 
of this bird, it is a surprise to learn that it sometimes does serious 
damage to vineyards. Investigation, however, shows that, as in 
most other similar cases, the injury results only when too many 
birds gather in a limited area. Nearly all the complaints against 
the quail for eating fruit are that it visits vineyards in immense 
numbers and eats grapes. When thousands visit a vineyard, even if 
only occasionally, and each bird eats or spoils at least one grape, the 
result is disastrous. 

Mrs. Florence Merriam Bailey, writing of the foothills of San Diego 
County, says: 

In 1889 quail were so numerous that the dust of the roads was printed with their 
tracks, and it was an everyday matter to have them start out of the brush and run 
ahead of the horses quite unconcernedly, pattering along in their stiff, prim way, 
with their topknots thrown forward over their beaks. In fact, the quail were so 
abundant as to be a pest. For several years great flocks of them came down the 
canyons to Major Merriam' s vineyard, where they destroyed annually from 20 to 30 
tons of fruit. In one season, July to October, 1891, 130 dozen were trapped on his 
ranch. The result of this wholesale destruction was manifest when I returned to 
the valley in 1894. The birds were then rarely seen on the roads and seldom 
flushed in riding about the valley. 

Another observer states that he once saw a flock of about a thou- 
sand quail eating Zinfandel grapes in a vineyard in the central part 
of the State, and another says that in southern California he has 
seen as many as 5,000 feeding upon Muscat grapes. In the writer's 
interviews with California fruit growers, only one mentioned the quail 

"Auk, XIII, p. 116, 1896. 


as harmful. His ranch was situated along the hills on the side of a 
narrow valley, adjacent to wild grazing land with much chaparral 
and forest, among which the quail lived. In this case the annual 
loss was estimated at 2 or 3 tons of grapes. 

In the laboratory investigation of the food of the California quail 
619 stomachs were examined. They were collected in every month 
except May, but only one was obtained in March. The other months 
are well represented. Animal food, principally insects, amounts to 
but 3 percent, and most of this was found in the stomachs of young 
birds, mere broodlings. Vegetable food amounts to 97 percent and 
consists mainly of seeds of plants most of which are of noxious or 
troublesome species. 

Animal food. — Ants appear to be a favorite food. They were found 
in 82 stomachs, and were eaten by adults as well as by young. They 
amount, however, to less than 1 percent of the whole diet. The rest 
of the animal food aggregates a little more than 2 percent and is 
distributed as follows: Beetles in 30 stomachs, bugs (Hemiptera) in 
38, caterpillars in 11, grasshoppers in 7, flies in 2, spiders in 6, mille- 
peds in 1, and snails in 2. The most interesting point in this con- 
nection was the stomach of a broodling only 3 or 4 days old. Besides 
several adult Hemiptera, some ants, caterpillars, and spiders, and a 
few seeds, it contained 280 minute insects, which constituted 76 
percent of the stomach's contents, and were identified as an imma- 
ture form of a species of scale, Phenacoccus JieliantJii. 

In this connection the following extract from a letter dated at Los 
Angeles, Calif., October 28, 1908, by Dr. W. G. Chambers, to the 
Secretary of Agriculture is interesting: 

Last May during the hatching season one of my female quail died a week prior to 
completing the hatch. An incandescent light of 8 candlepower was substituted, the 
result being 15 baby quail, very wild at first, not understanding human sounds 
or language, but finally becoming as docile as pet chickens. They were raised in 
my back yard, running at large after the first week. 

A number of Marguerite bushes which grow in profusion in the yard were so infested 
with black scale that I had decided to uproot them and had postponed doing so, as 
the little quail worked so persistently among the branches; upon investigation I 
discovered them eating the scale and twittering happily; they would swallow the 
fully developed scale and thoroughly clean the branches of all those undeveloped. 

The young in the first week of life eat animal matter to the extent 
of from 50 to 75 percent of the food, but by the time they are 4 
weeks old they take little if any more animal food than the adults. 

Vegetable food. — The vegetable part of the quail's food may be 
divided into fruit, grain, seeds, and forage. Fruit appeared in 106 
stomachs, and aggregates 2.3 percent of the yearly diet. It was dis- 
tributed as follows: Grapes in 7 stomachs, prunes in 9, apple in 3, 
Rubus (blackberry or raspberry) in 4, olive in 1, elderberiy in 21, 
snowberry in 8, manzanita in 2, huckleberry in 11, and rose-haws in 3. 


Pulp and skins, identified as fruit only, were found in 27 stomachs, 
and unknown seeds, probably those of some small fruit or berry, 
occurred in 10 stomachs. It is evident that the percentage of any 
one of the above is insignificant. Stomach examination throws no 
new light upon the quail's grape-eating habits, except to show that 
the ravages complained of are exceptional. That fruit does not con- 
stitute any important part of the bird's annual food is clearly proved. 
Grain was found in 133 stomachs, and constitutes 6.4 percent of 
the food. It was distributed as follows: Corn in 14 stomachs, wheat 
in 15, oats in 13, barley in 89, and rye in 2. The principal complaints 
against the quail on the score of grain eating are that flocks sometimes 
visit newly sown fields, and eat large quantities of the seed. Walter 
E. Bryant says on this point: 

Two males which I shot one evening, as they were going to roost for the night, after 
having been feeding on a newly sown field, contained the following, mainly in the 
crop: (a) Two hundred and ten whole grains of barley, 6 pieces of broken barley, 

3 grains of 'cheat,' and 1 of wheat, besides a few barley hulls, some clover leaves, and 
alfilaria; (6) one hundred and eighty-five whole grains of barley, 5 broken pieces, 

4 grains of 'cheat,' and 2 of wheat; also barley hulls, clover, and alfilaria. The flock 
numbered nearly or quite 20 birds. a. 

Only one report accuses the bird of eating grain from the harvest 
field. Mr. W. T. Craig, of San Francisco, writing to the United 
States Department of Agriculture, says: 

I have observed the quail enter a field of wheat to the number of thousands, and had 
they not been driven away they would have destroyed the whole crop. 

Stomach examination does not indicate any month in which grain 
is eaten in excess of other food. January shows the highest per- 
centage, 12.4, but November is nearly as high, while December, 
although between the two, shows less than 3 percent. A little more 
than 3 percent was eaten in February, and none at all in March and 
April, though the newly sown grain would be accessible in one at 
least of these months. June and July, the harvest months, show 
respectively 4.1 percent and 10.7 percent. In fact the stomach record 
plainly indicates that the quail does not make special search for grain, 
but being naturally a seed eater takes grain when it comes in the way. 

The seeds of a multitude of plants which have no apparent useful 
function except to increase by their decay the deposit of humus in the 
soil constitute the staff of life of the quail. In this particular inves- 
tigation they aggregate 62.5 percent of the food of the year. They 
appear in stomachs taken in every month and reach a good per- 
centage in, each, the only months that show much diminution in 
quantity being January, February, March, and April, when new 
forage partly replaces seeds. The percentage is highest in June, 85.9, 
but shows no great falling off from July to December inclusive. 

a Zoe, IV, pp. 55-56, 1893-94. 


Seventy-three kinds of seeds were identified, at least generically, and 
more than half of them were determined specifically. Many more 
were ground up so as to be unrecognizable. The following is a list of 
the seeds with the number of stomachs in which each kind occurred : 

Poverty weed (Iva axillaris) 3 

Gum weed (Grindelia squamosa) 2 

Bur marigold (Bidens sp.) 17 

Sunflower (Helianthus sp.) 1 

Tarweed ( Madia sativa) 67 

Mayweed (Anthemis cotula) 27 

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) • 14 

Thistle ( Cirsium sp.) 5 

Blessed thistle ( Cnicus benedictus) 1 

Bur thistle ( Centaurea melitensis) 201 

Sow thistle (Sonchus asper) 2 

Sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) , 1 

Prickly lettuce (Lactuca scariola) 4 

California dandelion (Agoseris sp.) 2 

Blue vervain ( Verbena hastata) 22 

Stickseed (Echinospermum sp.) 16 

Burweed (Amsinckia tesselata) 11 

Ribwort (Plantago lanceolata) 2 

Pursh ribwort (Plantago purshi) 1 

Common plantain (Plantago major) 2 

Painted cup ( Castilleia sp.) 1 

Black nightshade (Solanum nigrum) 10 

Dodder (Cuscuta sp.) 3 

Morning glory ( Convolvulus sp.) 2 

Pimpernel (Anagallis sp.) 2 

Carrot (Daucus carota) 5 

Lupine (Lupinus sp.) 150 

Bur clover ( Medicago denticulata) 156 

Sweet clover ( Melilotus alba) 6 

Clover ( Trifolium sp.) 75 

Deer weed (Lotus glaber) 50 

Vetch ( Vicia sp.) 32 

Five-finger (Potentilla sp.) 1 

Turkey mullein (Eremocarpus setigerus) 168 

Sumac (Rhus laurina) 69 

Poison oak (Rhus diversiloba) 52 

Alfilaria (Erodium cicutarium)\ orv 
Alfilaria (Erodium moschatum))' ' 

Carolina geranium (Geranium carolinianum) 1 .» 
Common geranium (Geranium dissectum) . . J 

Wood sorrel (Oxalis corniculata) 1 

Mallow ( Malva rotundifolia) 11 

Shepherd's purse ( Capsella bursapastoris) 1 

Peppergrass (Lepidium sp.) 5 

Wild radish (Raphanus sativus) 5 

Black mustard (Brassica nigra) 32 

Wild turnip (Brassica campestris) 3 

California poppy (Eschscholtzia californica) 1 

Buttercup (Ranunculus sp.) 3 4 


Water crowfoot (Ranunculus aquatilis) . 1 3 

Miner's lettuce ( Montia perfoliata) 26 

Red maids ( Calandrinia menziesi) 58 

Pigweed ( Chenopodium album) 11 

Rough pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus) 77 

Corn spurry (Spergula arvensis) 1 

Common chickweed (Stellaria media) 62 

Field chickweed ( Cerastium arvense) 2 

Sleepy catchfly (Silene antirrhina) 58 

Black bindweed (Polygonum convolvulus) 1 

Dotted smartweed (Polygonum punctatum) 2 

Common knotweed (Polygonum lapathifolium) 2 

Wire grass (Polygonum aviculare) '. 55 

Curly dock (Rumex crispus) 9 

Sorrel (Rumex acetosella) 59 

Sedge ( Carex sp.) 26 

Galingale ( Cyperus sp.) 7 

Rag grass (Lolium perenne) 56 

Soft brome (Bromus hordeaceus) : 3 

Cheat, or chess (Bromus secalinus) 18 

Walk grass (Poa annua) 29 

Timothy (Phleum pratense) 1 

Bear grass (Stipa setigera) 5 

Canary grass (Phalaris caroliniana) 2 

Unidentified seeds, mostly ground up 293 

From this list it would appear that bur thistle, lupines, bur clover, 
and turkey mullein are the favorite seeds; that the others are not 
distasteful is shown by the quantities found in some stomachs. For 
instance, mayweed was identified in only 27 stomachs, yet one stom- 
ach contained at least 2,000 of these seeds; pigweed (Chenopodium) 
in but 11, yet one contained 1,000. One stomach held 83 kernels of 
barley, 592 seeds of geranium, 560 of tarweed, 40 of bur thistle, 48 of 
clover, 80 of amiaria, 704 of timothy, 32 of catchfly, and 5 of snow- 
berry, or 2,144 seeds in all. Another contained 1,696 geranium seeds, 
14 bur thistle, 24 knotweed, 14 tarweed, 38 bur clover, 148 amiaria, 
12 ray grass, and 1 unknown seed, and a pod of uncertain origin — in 
all 1,944 seeds and a pod. In both cases the contents of the crop is 
included with that of the stomach or gizzard. These samples indicate 
considerable variety in the quail's diet, even in one meal. 

Grass and other forage constitute a little over 25 percent of the 
quail's annual food. Forage amounts to less than 1 percent in June, 
remains about the same until October, and increases somewhat in 
November. In January it becomes important, and it reaches nearly 
60 percent of the food for the next four months. The maximum, 85 
percent, occurs in March; but this percentage, based on only one 
stomach, can not be considered final. Seeds and forage are practically 
complementary to each other — that is, as one increases the other de- 
creases. June, which shows the least forage, has the largest percentage 
of seeds. Leaves of red and of bur clover and of amiaria were the 


favorite kinds/ and in some cases constituted the whole stomach con- 
tents. Blades of grass are frequently taken. A few bits of acorn, and 
perhaps other nuts, were eaten, but the quantity is insignificant. 


From the above analysis of the food of the California quail, it is 
apparent that under normal conditions the farmer and fruit grower 
have nothing to fear from its ravages. When, however, large areas 
of chaparral land are cleared and brought under cultivation, it is 
natural that the products of garden and vineyard should be eaten to 
a greater or less extent by quail, which abound in such localities. 
On the other hand, its seed-eating record is greatly in its favor. 
Usually there is little difficulty in getting rid of a superfluity of game 
birds ; in fact, in most cases the trouble is to prevent their extermina- 
tion. A bird so large, so easily trapped, so valuable as food, and 
withal one whose pursuit affords such excellent sport as the valley 
quail, will probably not become numerous enough to do serious 
damage except locally and under unusual conditions, and then a 
reduction of numbers is the easiest and simplest cure. Permits to 
trap quail on one's own premises are obtainable in California on 
application to the State fish commissioner. After the birds have been 
sufficiently reduced, they can be kept within reasonable limits by a 
moderate amount of shooting in the proper season. 



Among the useful birds of the State few take higher rank than the 
woodpeckers. They are mainly arboreal, and most of them may be 
designated as conservators of the forest in the strictest sense. The 
larvae of certain species of beetles and moths live either under the 
bark or within the solid wood of trees, where they are safe from the 
attacks of birds, except such as are furnished by nature with special 
tools for digging into wood and bark. In this respect our native 
woodpeckers are in general highly favored. The peculiar structure 
of their chisel-shaped beak, combined with sharp claws and a stiffened 
tail for support, enables them, when they have located their prey, 
to drill down to it through several inches of wood and draw it forth 
with their tongue. This latter organ, in the more typical species of 
the family, is long, cylindrical, and barbed at the tip, being particu- 
larly well adapted for probing the burrows of boring insects. 

Twenty-one species and subspecies of woodpeckers occur in Cali- 
fornia. Of these about half a dozen are sufficiently abundant and 
widely distributed to be economically important. The average 


amount of insect food in the stomachs of the six species discussed in 
the following pages is 62 percent of the whole contents. 

It is unfortunate that the most valuable species of our woodpeckers 
are not abundant. In many parts of the country the downy and hairy 
woodpeckers are quite rare and, what is worse, appear to be dimin- 
ishing in numbers. As they are among the most valuable of our 
species, it is worth while to inquire into the cause of their scarcity 
and if possible to devise efficient remedies. In most sections these 
birds can obtain an abundance of food, and as they are not perse- 
cuted, so far as known, the most probable cause for their scarcity 
would appear to be the lack of suitable nesting sites. This is es- 
pecially true in the northeastern part of the United States where the 
war waged upon the gipsy and brown-tail moths has led to the trim- 
ming of all dead trunks and limbs from forests and orchardsj so that 
the woodpeckers, which as a rule dig new nesting holes every year, are 
left with no places in which to nest. In Germany, after much experi- 
mentation, it has been found possible to construct nesting boxes which 
the European woodpeckers freely use. There can be no reasonable 
doubt that a similar result can be attained in tins country. Pending 
experiments and as a step in the right direction, it would be well for 
orchardists to leave the stubs of dead limbs on orchard trees as sites 
for the nests of woodpeckers. While the woodpecker may use the 
nest it excavates only one season, the hole will be available for blue- 
birds, wrens, chickadees, and nuthatches in succeeding years. The 
experiment of inducing our woodpeckers, especially the downy and 
hairy, to build in artificially constructed nesting boxes is well worth 
patient and persistent experiment. 


(Dryobates villosus harrisi and hyloscopus.) 

Two subspecies of the hairy woodpecker occur in California, and 
between them they occupy nearly the whole State at some time of the 
year. Their favorite haunts are open groves and orchards, and as for- 
ests disappear and fruit trees increase in number, they will probably 
more and more inhabit orchards. That the hairy woodpecker is far 
from abundant at present is unfortunate, for its food habits make it of 
great economic importance. Only 27 stomachs have been examined, 
but the dates of collection are well distributed. Seven is the greatest 
number taken in any one month (September), and none at all were 
obtained in March, May, August, and October. While this number 
is sufficient to afford a general idea of the kind of food the bird prefers, 
it does not furnish reliable data as to the relative proportions of the 
different constituents. 


Of the contents of the 27 stomachs, 78 percent consisted of animal 
matter, nearly all of which was either insects or spiders. The remain- 
ing 22 percent was made up of various vegetable substances. In the 
relative proportions of animal and vegetable food the California bird 
differs somewhat from the eastern subspecies, the diet of which con- 
sists of 68 percent of animal matter to 32 of vegetable. 

Animal food. — Of the various items in the food of the western 
hairy woodpecker, the most important, as well as the largest, is the 
larvge of wood-boring beetles (Cerambycidse and Buprestidse). These 
aggregate for the year nearly 49 percent of the total. This is a much 
greater proportion than is eaten by the eastern subspecies, and is 
probably not exceeded by any other bird. Each of several stomachs 
contained more than 20 larvse. When the immense damage done by 
these borers to forest trees, as well as to orchards, is considered, it is 
hardly possible to overestimate the value of this woodpecker's serv- 
ices. Moreover, these insects are concealed and protected from the 
attacks of all birds except those of this family. Most of these insects 
are taken in the cooler months, the fewest being eaten in July. One 
stomach taken in February contained 70 percent of wood-borers, and 
the remainder, or 30 percent, consisted of other harmful beetles. 
Two stomachs taken in April contained an average of 76 percent of 
these destructive borers and 6 percent of other beetles. Beetles 
belonging to various families, nearly all of them harmful, and some 
very injurious, amount to over 9 percent of the food. 

Ants are usually a favorite article of food with woodpeckers, but 
with the California hairy woodpeckers they constitute less than 3 
percent of the year's food. This is somewhat surprising, as the 
eastern bird eats them to the extent of 17 percent. Other Hymenop- 
tera, including wasps, amount to less than 2 percent. 

Caterpillars exceed 11 percent, and stand next to beetles in im- 
portance. Many of them are of wood-boring species and evidently 
were dug out of trees. 

A few miscellaneous insects and some spiders complete the animal 
food. Several stomachs contained segments of millepeds, or thou- 
sand legs, and one held the remains of one of those bristly creatures 
known as jointed spiders (Solpugidse). 

Vegetable food. — The vegetable part of the diet may be divided into 
fruit, seeds, and miscellaneous substances. Fruit amounts to 6 per- 
cent, and consists of the smaller kinds, probably mostly wild species. 
Rubus seeds (raspberry or blackberry), found in several stomachs, 
were the only fruits positively identified. Seeds aggregate nearly 12 
percent, and all that were determined belonged to coniferous trees. 
The miscellaneous part contains a little mast and some cambium, 
or inner bark, but is mostly rubbish, such as rotten wood, probably 
swallowed accidentally with the beetle larvse. 



The above brief review of the food of the hairy woodpecker indicates 
that nearly half its yearly food consists of larvae of some of the 
most destructive insects known, while this service is not offset by the 
destruction of any useful product. The other elements of the bird's 
food are either beneficial or neutral. It is unfortunate that the species 
is not more abundant on the Pacific coast. 

(Dryobates pubescens gairdneri and other subspecies.) 

To the ordinary observer the downy woodpecker is only a miniature 
edition of the hairy, which it resembles in everything but size. It 
seems, however, to be far more abundant than its larger relative, 
especially in California. It is much more domestic than the hairy, 
and frequents orchards and gardens and the vicinity of houses. Its 
food consists of the same elements but in different proportions. The 
following report is based on an examination of 80 stomachs, taken in 
every month of the year. The food consists of 77 percent of animal 
matter to 23 of vegetable, thus agreeing closely with the diet of the 

Animal food. — The animal food is composed of insects, with a few 
spiders. The western downy eats 16 percent of wood-boring larvse, 
a little more than the eastern downy, but less than one-third as much 
as the hairy woodpecker. Other beetles amount to 13 percent. They 
are mostly harmful species, the exception being a few Carabidae, or 
predaceous ground beetles. 

Ants are eaten to the extent of 12 percent, which is less than half 
the quantity taken by the eastern subspecies. While ants may some- 
times subserve a useful purpose, they are for the most part annoying 
or noxious. It is well known that they protect and foster plant lice, 
and they often injure timber by boring galleries through it, frequently 
beginning in the abandoned burrow of a beetle larva. In houses 
they are an unmitigated nuisance, and in gardens and lawns are often 
equally obnoxious. For these reasons the habitual destruction of 
ants by woodpeckers is commendable. Other Hymenoptera amount 
to less than 2 percent, and consist of wasps and wild bees. 

The largest item in the food of the downy is made up of caterpillars, 
pupae, and a few adult moths. These aggregate a little over 21 per- 
cent. Pupae of the codling moth were identified in 4 stomachs and 
the larvae in 2, of which one contained 16 entire full-grown larvae. 
Another held the remains of 20 of these pernicious insects. From 
investigations during the past few years it appears that birds con- 
stitute a most efficient natural check to the spread of this destruc- 
tive moth, especially such birds as woodpeckers, titmice, nuthatches, 
and creepers, which obtain much of their food from crevices in the 
38301— Bull. 34—10 2 



bark of trees. It behooves the orchardist to see that these birds are 
carefully protected on his premises and encouraged in every pos- 
sible way. 

The Hemiptera, or bugs, which appear in the food of the downy 
woodpecker are plant lice and scales, with a few other forms. They 
amount to 10 percent of the year's food,, but all were eaten in the 
seven months beginning with March, and averaged 17 percent for each 
of these months. Scales were found in 8 stomachs, and in one they 
constituted 83 percent of the contents. The black olive scale 
(Saissetia olese) was the only one identified. Plant lice were found 
in 11 stomachs, but none were specifically identified, although 
some were of the woolly species. That these are a favorite food is 
shown by the quantity eaten. Five stomachs contained the follow- 
ing percentages: 94, 94, 84, 81, and 80. These creatures are so 
fragile that the process of digestion soon destroys their shape, and 
it is highly probable that small numbers were contained in many 
more stomachs but were not identified. 

Grasshoppers, although a favorite article of bird food, are entirely 
ignored by the downy woodpecker. This emphasizes the arboreal 
habits of this species, as most birds feed upon grasshoppers, when 
in season, in preference to their ordinary food. Flies also are prac- 
tically absent from the diet of the downy. A few miscellaneous 
insects and spiders, amounting in all to 3 percent, make up the 
remainder of the animal food. 

Vegetable food. — The vegetable part of the food may be arranged 
under three heads — fruit, seeds, and miscellaneous items. Fruit 
was found in 14 stomachs, and amounts to 9 percent of the food. 
Cherries were identified in a few stomachs, and apples, or a similar 
fruit, in several more; but most of the remains were skins of small 
berries not further identified. Evidently this bird does little or no 
damage to fruit. Seeds amount to a little more than 7 percent, and 
are mostly those of poison oak, which the downy, in common with 
many other birds, aids in disseminating. Grain (oats) was found 
in 2 stomachs. The miscellaneous vegetable food, 7 percent, consists 
of mast, or acorn meat, a little cambium, and rubbish. 

Food of young. — A nest of young downies was watched for 12 one- 
hour periods during six days, and the number of feedings noted as 
follows : 


Hours in 



Hours in 



June 7 

8.01- 9.01 




June 8 

June 9 

June 10 

June 11 

June 12 


In the twelve hours during which the birds were watched, the 
nestlings were fed 160 times, an average of 13§ times per hour; or 
each of the 4 was fed more than three times per hour. The nest 
was in a stub of a cherry tree in a mixed orchard, and apparently 
all the foraging was done in the immediate vicinity, as food was 
brought too often to have been carried any great distance; moreover, 
the parent birds were frequently seen searching the trees. Both 
parents took part in caring for the young, one often waiting patiently 
near by while the other fed the nestlings. At first the parent birds 
entered the nest chamber when they came with food, but later, as 
the nestlings grew larger, they remained outside, thrusting their heads 
in at the opening. The food nearly always appeared as a white mass 
in the beak, which led to the suspicion that the young were being fed 
with woolly aphids. The parent birds came from the direction of 
a number of apple trees which were badly infested with this pest, and 
the bark of the trees showed places from which the insects had been 
recently taken. Thus it was practically certain that aphids were 
being fed to the young woodpeckers. 


From the foregoing account it is evident that the downy wood- 
pecker is of great value to the horticulturist. Its food consists 
largely of orchard pests, and its levies upon fruit are insignificant. 
The orchardist should note that the downy makes its nest in a cham- 
ber which it excavates in a partly rotten trunk or limb of moderate 
size, frequently of an apple tree. Where such wood occurs in or 
about the orchard, it should be left for the convenience of the wood- 
pecker and his successors, the wrens and titmice. By so simple a 
precaution as this the number of downies and of other useful birds 
that build in holes may be materially increased in an orchard and 
their services secured without cost at the very point where most 
needed. When trimming dead limbs, it is necessary only to leave a 
few inches of the stub, which is not unsightly, and which answers 
all the purposes of the woodpecker. 


(Dryobates nuttalli.) 

The Nuttall woodpecker is well distributed over California west 
of the Sierra Nevada, but is less abundant than the downy and not 
quite so domestic. It is rather more fond of big oaks and other 
forest trees than of the orchard, but is often found on fruit trees. 

The following analysis of its food is based upon the examination of 
the contents of 46 stomachs, taken in various parts of the State and 
in every month except May. The first division of the food into 


animal and vegetable matter gives 78 percent of the former to 22 
percent of the latter, exactly the same as in the case of the hairy 

Animal food. — Of the animal food, beetles are the largest item, 
and amount to nearly 34 percent. They consist largely of larval 
Cerambycidae, or borers. While not so good a driller for insects as 
the hairy, the efforts of the Nuttall are not to be despised. It destroys 
a goodly number of wood-borers, but it eats more adult beetles of other 
families than do either of the species whose food has been discussed. 
A considerable number of small leaf beetles (Chrysomelidse) are eaten 
by the Nuttall, and are probably taken from leaves. It eats also 
click beetles (Elateridge) , darkling beetles (Tenebrionidse) , and 
weevils (Rhyncophora), among which the genus Balaninus, that 
preys upon acorns and other nuts, was identified. A few predaceous 
ground beetles (Carabidse) were found. 

Ants do not appear to be a favorite food of this woodpecker, and 
they were eaten very irregularly. They constituted 36 percent of 
the food in June, 22 percent in September, and appear in small quan- 
tities in January and August, but are completely wanting in the other 
months. The average for the year is less than 6 percent. Other 
Hymenoptera form practically the same percentage, but nearly all 
were contained in a single stomach taken in December. 

Hemiptera (bugs), like ants, are taken very irregularly and occur- 
either in considerable quantities or not at all. In January they 
amount to 46 percent of the food of the month, in February to 28 
percent, in June to 10 percent, in July to 36 percent, but in the other 
months do not appear. The average for the year is 1 1 percent. They 
belong to several families, but no special pest is prominent. Scales 
were found in two stomachs and plant lice in one. Three stomachs 
contained remains of the box-elder bug, Leptocoris trivittatus, of 
which two stomachs contained between 30 and 40 specimens each. 
This bug is very abundant in some places at times, and injures the 
box-elder tree. It has also done some damage to fruit. 

Diptera (flies) were found only in the stomachs taken in June. 
They amounted to 12 percent for that month or 1 percent for the 
whole year. 

Caterpillars stand next to beetles in the quantity eaten by the 
Nuttall woodpecker. They amount to over 13 percent of the food, 
and, except in the three winter months, appear very regularly. 
Many of them are of the wood-boring kinds, but leaf-eaters also are 
present. Various other insects, insects' eggs, and a few spiders 
amount to 7 percent, and complete the animal food. 

Vegetable food. — Fruit amounts to 11 percent, or half of the vege- 
table food. Naturally most of it was taken during the summer and 
fall months, although the one stomach taken in December contained 


35 percent of fruit pulp not further identified. The greater part of 
the fruit eaten is of wild species, of which the elder (Sambucus) is the 
favorite. Rubus fruits (raspberry or blackberry) were found in a 
few stomachs. Probably this bird will never do any serious harm by 
eating fruit. Seeds of poison oak, cambium, and mast (acorns) make 
up the other 11 percent of the vegetable food, and have no special 
economic interest, except that the scattering abroad of the seeds of 
poison oak is a nuisance. Taken as a whole, the vegetable food of 
the Nuttall is of little economic importance. 


While the evidence at hand does not show that this bird feeds on 
any specific pest, yet it is doing good in preying upon noxious insects 
in general; moreover, it does not injure any product of husbandry. 
It should therefore be encouraged to pursue its good work. 


(Sphyrapicus ruber.) 

While the red-breasted sapsucker inhabits most of California at 
some time of the year, it is generally absent from the valleys during 
the warmer months, usually retiring to the mountains and forest 
regions to breed. 

Of the 24 stomachs of this species received, nearly all were taken 
in fruit-growing sections, and represent only the months from Sep- 
tember to March inclusive. Statements based upon the examination 
of so little material can scarcely be considered final, but considerable 
knowledge may be gained of the kinds of food eaten, even if the 
relative quantities can not be determined. The food consists of 63 
percent of animal matter and 37 percent of vegetable. 

Animal food. — Seventy-five percent of the animal food consists of 
ants, and the average per month is 40 percent of the whole diet. Two 
stomachs taken in January contained an average of 49 percent each. 
One stomach collected in March held 84 percent, and one in September 
was completely filled with them. In other months the amounts were 
less. In respect to ant eating this sapsucker keeps up the reputation 
of the family. Other Hymenoptera aggregate only a little more than 
7 percent, and all were found in stomachs taken from October to 
December inclusive. 

This bird, like its eastern relative, has the habit of removing patches 
of bark from certain live trees, usually willows, for the sake of cam- 
bium and of the sap which exudes; and it also eats the insects at- 
tracted by the sap, which are mostly bees, wasps, and ants; prob- 
ably this accounts for the large predominance of Hymenoptera in the 
sapsucker's diet. 


Beetles amounted in January to 3.5 percent, in November to 1.4 
percent, in December to 0.7 percent, with none at all in the other 
months. The average for the whole year is only 0.8 percent. No 
larvse of wood-borers were found, and apparently this bird never aids 
the hairy woodpecker in the good work of destroying these creatures. 
The species eaten were mostly small leaf beetles (ChrysomelidaB) , with 
a few weevils. 

Hemiptera (bugs) and Diptera (flies) were entirely wanting in the 
stomachs examined. Caterpillars were present in two stomachs, both 
taken in October. They amounted to 5 percent of the food of that 
month. One stomach taken in February was entirely filled by a large 

Vegetable food. — The vegetable part of the food of the red-breasted 
sapsucker falls naturally into three divisions — fruit, seeds, and other 
vegetable matter. As the bird is not present in the fruit-growing 
sections of the State when fruit is ripe, it can not make great inroads 
upon the orchard. While fruit aggregates nearly 17 percent, it is 
mostly wild or of worthless varieties. Figs, whose seeds and pulp 
were found in one stomach, were the only cultivated kind identified. 
Several stomachs contained berries of the pepper tree (Schinus molle), 
one contained cascara berries (RJiamnus calif ornicus) , and in several 
were unidentified seeds and pulp. Seeds amount to about 9 percent, 
and are those of the poison oak, with a few others. The miscellaneous, 
item is made up almost entirely of cambium, or the inner bark of trees, 
and amounts to about 11 percent of the whole food. 


It is evident that the red-breasted sapsucker falls far below some 
other members of its family in economic importance. It does not 
prey upon the worst pests of the orchard and forest, but on the other 
hand it does not feed on the products of the orchard or farm. It 
injures trees by tapping holes in the bark and by stripping it off in 
patches, for which reason this sapsucker may be considered more 
harmful than beneficial. 


( Melanerpes formicivorus bairdi.) 

The California woodpecker is distributed throughout a large part 
of the State, but is in the main confined to places where there is an 
abundance of large oaks — trees for which it appears to have a special 
liking and from which it derives much of its subsistence. Wherever 
it lives it is usually abundant and the most noticeable element of the 
bird fauna, attracting attention both by its loud cries and by its con- 
spicuous flight. It is one of the few woodpeckers whose food is more 
largely vegetable than animal. 


Of all the woodpeckers the California has made most impression on 
nonscientific observers, owing to its peculiar habit of drilling holes 
into the trunks and branches of dead trees or into the bark of living 
ones, in each of which it stores an acorn. Wherever the bird is abun- 
dant every dead trunk or large branch is punctured with holes, fre- 
quently less than an inch apart. So zealous is it in this work that 
when trees are not available it often drills holes in cornices, church 
spires, telegraph and telephone poles, and fence posts. The wood- 
pecker does not get the benefit of all its hoarded acorns by any 
means, for jays, rats, mice, and squirrels have learned where they can 
obtain food in winter, and are not backward in helping themselves 
to the woodpecker's stores. As this robbery of his larder is resented 
by the owner, it leads to endless quarrels. 

For the laboratory investigation of the food of the California wood- 
pecker 75 stomachs were available. They were taken in every month 
except February, April, and May, the greater number in June and July, 
when the bird's chances to do mischief are greatest. The food con- 
sists of 22.43 percent of animal matter to 77.57 percent of vegetable. 
This is the highest percentage of vegetable matter yet found in the 
stomach of any woodpecker, though the red-bellied ( Centurus caro- 
linus) comes very close to it. 

Animal food. — Beetles constitute the smallest item of the animal 
food. They amount to less than 3 percent, and are distributed among 
several families. The only month in which they are at all prominent 
is July, when they reach nearly 15 percent. No wood-boring larvae 
were found. This would seem to indicate that the bird uses- its 
chisel-shaped bill solely for the purpose of boring holes in which to 
store acorns, instead of excavating for insects. 

Ants amount to 8.21 percent of the food. In one stomach taken 
in March they constitute 50 percent of the contents, but in no other 
do they reach 1 1 percent. The specific name of this bird, formicivorus, 
ant-eating, is not well chosen, for ants do not form a large part 
of its diet as compared with several other woodpeckers. Other 
Hymenoptera amount to 6.88 percent. More than half of these were 
in stomachs taken in August, when they aggregate 33 percent. 

A few bugs, flies, and grasshoppers, with fragments of caterpillars, 
make up the remainder of the animal food, 4.52 percent. One stom- 
ach contained a few black olive scales. 

Vegetable food. — Grain, fruit, and mast constitute nearly the whole 
of the vegetable food. One stomach taken in January contained 
nothing but corn, and another in December contained a few corn 
hulls. This is the whole of the grain record, and is of no economic 
interest. The average for the year but slightly exceeds 1 percent. 
Fruit amounts to a little more than 24 percent, and was found in nearly 
every month in which stomachs were taken. Most of it was evidently 


the pulp of the larger cultivated varieties, though that in the stomachs 
taken in winter could have had no economic value. Seeds of the 
elderberry (Sambucus) were found in two stomachs. The largest 
amounts of fruit were eaten in August and September, when they 
reached 59.34 and 54 percent, respectively. While this is a high per- 
centage of fruit, it is not believed that the bird does any sensible 
damage in the orchard, since it is not numerous enough and does not 
usually frequent cultivated ground. No complaints of such damage 
have yet been heard. 

The principal item of food of the California woodpecker is acorns. 
Acorns form 52.45 percent of the year's food, and were found in every 
month when stomachs were taken except August ; as only three were 
collected in that month, the record is not very reliable. In Novem- 
ber, when 12 stomachs were taken, mast amounted to nearly 93.58 
percent of the average contents. In 12 stomachs collected in June, 
when fruit and insects are abundant, it averaged 79.25 percent. In 
July it fell to 29.47 percent, the deficiency of acorns being made up 
by animal food, which attains the highest percentage in that month. 
The question has been raised whether the woodpecker stores acorns 
for the sake of the meat, or for the grubs that frequently develop 
therein. Stomach examination shows that, while the substance of 
the acorn is eaten freely whenever obtainable, larvae are almost 
entirely wanting. It is therefore the nuts themselves that the 
woodpecker stores for food. From an economic point of view little 
objection to this acorn-eating habit can be raised. The acorn crop 
is usually superabundant, and in most cases can not be put to better 
use than to tide the woodpeckers over the winter until insects become 


From the foregoing discussion of the food of the California wood- 
pecker it is obvious that the bird's food does not possess high eco- 
nomic value. On the other hand the bird can not be charged with 
the destruction of useful insects or of any product of husbandry. 
While it eats some fruit, it does not habitually infest orchards, and 
is seldom numerous enough to be a serious nuisance. The few insects 
it eats are nearly all harmful. 

The trees used by the bird for storehouses are usually dead or partly 
so, and in living trees the punctures do not go through the bark, so that 
no harm is done. When holes are drilled in buildings, fences, or tele- 
graph poles, the injury is real, but on the whole the damage done in 
this way is not extensive. 

When the beneficial and injurious habits of the bird are carefully 
weighed, the balance is decidedly in the bird's favor; and from the 
esthetic standpoint few birds are more interesting and beautiful. 



(Colaptes cafer collaris.) 

In food habits the nickers of California do not differ essentially 
from their eastern relatives. They are usually abundant wherever 
there are trees, and are frequenters of orchards, though they usually 
choose higher trees for nesting sites. They are among the most ter- 
restrial of the woodpeckers, and obtain a large part of their food on 
the ground. 

For the investigation of the flicker's food 118 stomachs, taken in 
all months except January and May, were available. In these 
stomachs animal food amounts to 54 percent and vegetable to 46 

Animal food. — Beetles, in either adult or larval form, do not appear 
to be favorite food with the flicker. They amount to 3 percent of 
its diet, and are apparently eaten to a small extent in every month. 
In August they amount to 8 percent, in November to 7, and in all 
other months the percentage is small. They belong to 6 families, 
all harmful except the predaceous ground beetles (Carabidse). These 
occurred in 33 stomachs, but the percentage in each case was small, 
and they seem to be taken only incidentally. Weevils were found in 
4 stomachs, click beetles in one, darkling beetles in 6, rove beetles in 
3, and Notoxus alamedx in one. 

Ants constitute the largest item of the flicker's food, and are eaten 
in every month. They are the object of the bird's search on the 
ground and in rotten logs and stumps. The average for the year is 
45 percent, the same as was found in 230 stomachs of the eastern 
flicker. The stomach and crop of one individual of the eastern form 
taken in Texas was filled with over 5,000 small black ants (Cremasto- 
gaster). Each of several California stomachs held more than 1,000 
of these insects, and others but few less. In 10 stomachs taken in 
June the average percentage of ants was 76; in 10 taken in July, it 
was 87 percent. November was the month of least consumption, 
when the average of 34 stomachs was 7 percent. Of the 118 stom- 
achs, 78, or 66 percent of the whole, contained ants, and 14 held 
nothing else, except a little rubbish in three, and in one a few seeds of 
filaree (Erodium). Inasmuch as certain ants in California, in the 
latter part of summer, make a business of harvesting seeds, probably 
this particular woodpecker had picked up a few ants that were thus 
employed. Hymenoptera other than ants are eaten by the flicker 
only occasionally, and average less than 1 percent of the yearly food. 

Miscellaneous insects amount to nearly 5 percent. They consist 
of common crickets, wood crickets, mole crickets, caterpillars, white 
ants (Termes), spiders, and sow bugs (Oniscus). All of these suggest 


decaying logs arid stumps, where the flicker obtains a large share of 
its food. 

The following insects and crustaceans were identified in the food of 
the flicker: 


Amara insignis. Calathus rujicollis. 

Anisodactylus dilatatus. Platynus jnaculicollis. 

Anisodactylus piceus. Harpalus sp. 


Formica neorufibarbis. Messor andrei. 

Cremastogaster lineata. Solenopsis geminata. 

Lasius sp. Prenolepis imparls. 


Porcellio scabra. Oniscus sp. 

Vegetable food. — The vegetable food of the flicker includes many 
items. They may, however, be grouped under four heads: Mast, grain, 
fruit, and other vegetable food. Mast forms 10 percent of the food. 
It is taken fairly regularly, but in the greatest quantity in winter. It 
was contained in 15 stomachs, 1 holding nothing else. In one case 
it was English walnut, but in all others it appeared to be the meat 
of acorns. December showed the maximum amount, 40 percent. 
Grain was found only in stomachs taken in August, October, and 
November, the highest percentage being in August, about 17 percent. 
The total for the year was only 4 percent. It was all contained in 16 
stomachs, and consisted of corn in 14 cases, barley in 1, and oats 
in 1. A stomach taken in November was entirely filled with corn. 
It is not likely, however, that the flicker ever does serious damage to 
corn or any other grain. The examinations do not indicate any 
great fondness for this food, and observation has never shown that the 
bird makes a practice of visiting grain fields. 

Fruit was found in 39 stomachs, in 26 of which it was thought to 
be of cultivated varieties, but in the other 13 it was wild. Apples, 
cherries, grapes, prunes, and probably pears were the domestic fruits 
identified. One stomach was entirely filled with apple pulp and 
another practically so. Grapes are apparently the favorites. The 
wild varieties of fruit identified were pepper berries, elderberries, 
and gooseberries. Fruit pulp that could not be further determined 
was found in several stomachs and was classified as domestic, although 
it may have been wild. The aggregate of fruit for the year is 15 per- 
cent. While no complaints have been lodged against the flicker for 
depredations upon fruit, evidently it can do serious damage where it 
is abundant. It enjoys living in orchards or their immediate vicinity, 
and, as the stomachs show, does not hesitate to sample their prod- 
ucts, but it eats most of its fruit in the latter part of the season, after 


cherries, apricots, peaches, and prunes have been gathered. Septem- 
ber is the month of greatest consumption, 48 percent. Fruit is taken 
quite regularly during the rest of the year; but only 6 percent was 
eaten in June, the month of cherries, and 7 percent in July, the month 
when apricots are at their best, and none in August, the month of 
peaches and prunes. The damage done to fruit by the nicker probably 
consists in spoiling a few choice specimens, rather than in extensive 
destruction of the crop. 

Various other substances make up the remaining vegetable food of 
the nicker, 17 per cent. Of these the most conspicuous is the seed of 
poison oak (Rhus diversiloha) . These noxious seeds were found in 41 
stomachs, and 1 was entirely filled with them. Very few are eaten 
in June and July, but they form an important article of diet through 
the fall and winter. The month of greatest consumption is October, 
when they constitute 40 per cent of the total food. The consump- 
tion of these seeds would be a decided benefit to man if they were 
ground up and destroyed in the stomachs. Unfortunately they are 
either regurgitated or pass through the intestinal tract uninjured and 
ready to germinate. The action of the stomach simply removes the 
outer covering, a white, wax-like substance, which is probably very 
nutritious, and is evidently relished by many birds. Birds are prob- 
ably the most active agents in the dissemination of these noxious 
shrubs. On the other hand, these seeds, which are wonderfully 
abundant, afford food for thousands of birds during the winter, when 
other food is hard to obtain, and thus enable the birds to tide over the 
cold season to do their good work of destroying insects the next 
summer. Seeds of a nonpoisonous Rhus, some weed seeds, and a 
little rubbish were found in a few stomachs. 

The flicker of California, and probably of the west coast in general, 
has one habit not observed in the eastern species. The mild climate 
and abundant food supply render migration unnecessary, but, like 
many other birds that nest in holes in trees, it likes shelter during the 
winter nights. As trees in which cavities can be made are not numer- 
ous enough, it pecks holes in buildings, as barns, schoolhouses, and 
churches. It often happens that the hole leads into the interior of 
the building and so proves useless to the bird, and it makes another and 
another till it hits the right place — in the cornice, for instance. Usu- 
ally several holes are made before suitable shelter is found, and the 
consequent disfigurement and damage are sometimes serious. 


In summing up the food of this flicker, two points are important — 
the destruction of ants and the eating and consequent scattering of 
the seeds of poison oak. The destruction of ants is a benefit, but it 
does not appeal to the horticulturist and farmer as does the destruc- 
tion of well-known pests. While people are often annoyed by ants, 


they seldom suffer much damage by them. However, though ants 
do not destroy fruit or other crops to any great extent, they aid 
and abet other insects which do considerable harm. This is partic- 
ularly true in regard to plant lice, which are housed, protected, and 
generally cared for by ants. Ants also continue the destructive work 
in timber begun by beetle larvae until the wood is rendered worthless. 
The other insects eaten by the flicker are all more or less harmful, 
except a few useful ground beetles (Carabidse) . Most of the vegeta- 
ble food is neutral; the amount of fruit and grain destroyed is not 
sufficient to constitute serious injury, but the scattering broadcast 
of the seeds of poison oak is harmful. As on the whole the flicker 
does more good than harm, it should be protected and encouraged. 


Several other species of woodpeckers inhabit the State of California 
but, excepting the Lewis woodpecker, they are neither so numerous 
nor so generally distributed as those already treated. Their food 
consists in the main of the same elements, although the proportions 
vary with the species. The Lewis woodpecker (Asyndesmus lewisi) 
is perhaps the most important of these species, but since only 23 of 
its stomachs are available for examination, a definite statement of 
its food during the year can not yet be made. It appears to eat 
rather more vegetable than animal food, and in fall and winter eats 
large quantities of acorns. In the selection of its animal food it 
resembles the flicker in showing a decided taste for ants and other 

Dr. C. Hart Merriam contributes the following note on this species: 

The Lewis woodpecker is one of the commonest and most widely distributed wood- 
peckers of California, in these respects coming next after the California woodpecker 
( Melanerpesformicivorus bairdi) . But owing to its habit of breeding at higher altitudes 
it is less often seen in the lower and more highly cultivated parts of the State, except 
during migration. It breeds mainly in the Ponderosa pine forests of the mountains 
(Transition zone), whence, usually in early September, it descends into the blue oak 
and Digger pine belt of the foothills to spend the winter. 

Like the California woodpecker, it is a skillful flycatcher, pursuing and capturing 
insects in mid-air. But in fall and winter its principal food is acorns, of which it eats 
surprising quantities. At this season is is usually seen in small flocks of from 6 to 20 
birds, each carrying a large acorn in its bill. 

These woodpeckers are very fond of ripening apples, and in early September descend 
in flocks upon the orchards, particularly those of the higher foothills, and in certain 
cases, if let alone, destroy practically all the fruit. I have heard of their depredations 
in various parts of the State and have personally seen the birds, in early September, 
circling about the orchards and diving down into the apple trees between Round 
Mountain and Montgomery Creek, and in Fall River Valley, Shasta County, and in 
Scott Valley and the upper canyon of Klamath River near Beswick, in Siskiyou 
County. At the latter place they are so destructive that during the ripening of the 
fruit gunners employed to shoot them frequently kill 25 in a day, and in early Sep- 
tember, 1907, I was told that as many as 50 had been killed in one day. 


While, as stated above, our investigations have not proceeded far 
enough to enable a final statement to be made regarding this wood- 
pecker's economic status, enough is known to justify the belief that 
the bird, by its destruction of insects the year round, is much more 
beneficial than injurious, despite its occasional depredations on 
apples and other fruit. 

The sapsuckers of the genus SpJiyrapicus have been accused of 
doing much harm by boring into fruit and other trees for sap, and 
while the charge is well founded the injury is largely counterbalanced 
by the bird's destruction of insects. The sapsuckers are not numer- 
ous enough, however, to be reckoned an important factor either way. 



Among our useful birds the flycatchers (Tyrannidaa) take high rank. 
As is well known their principal food consists of insects captured in 
mid-air. If the name flycatcher implied that these birds subsisted 
largely upon flies (Diptera), it would be a misnomer, for nearly all the 
species eat far more Hymenoptera than Diptera. In fact wasp- 
catcher would be much more appropriate. The name, however, is 
intended to suggest the idea that the birds are flying when they catch 
their prey. The capture of food in this way implies that the species 
are strong, rapid flyers, and capable of making quick turns in the air. 
In addition to flying insects, the flycatchers eat spiders and other 
wingless forms and some vegetable food which they pick up from the 
ground or snatch from trees. The animal food of the 6 species 
discussed in the following pages averages 90 percent of their diet. 

Several flycatchers in the eastern part of the country are quite 
domestic in their habits and frequent orchards and gardens, and some 
species nest about buildings. In California some of the correspond- 
ing species have not yet become so accustomed to the presence of 
man and his works, but they are learning rapidly. The black phoebe 
is perhaps as familiar there as is the common phoebe in the East; but 
the kingbird of California has not fully decided that the orchard is a 
safe and altogether desirable place for nesting purposes. Sixteen spe- 
cies and subspecies of flycatchers have been found within the limits 
of this State. Six of them are numerous enough to be of economic 


( Myiarchus cinerascens . ) 

The ash-throated flycatcher is a summer resident of the lower and 
warmer parts of the State. Its habit of nesting in cavities perhaps 
causes it to seek the vicinity of farm buildings, where such accommo- 
dations are numerous. It builds in hollow trees also, which may often 


be found in the older orchards. The eastern species (M. crinitus), 
which nests in hollow trees, habitually places the shed skin of a snake 
in the walls of its nest. The reason for this is not plain, but the writer 
has never seen or heard of a nest in which the snake skin was lacking. 
The ash- thro at occasionally does the same thing, but apparently does 
not consider the snake skin indispensable. Though an orchard bird, 
it seldom eats any cultivated fruit, but confines its diet largely to 
insects, most of which are either injurious or neutral. 

In the following investigation of the ash-throat, 80 stomachs were 
used, collected from April to December inclusive, but only one in 
each month after July. Animal food amounts to 92 percent and veg- 
etable to 8 percent for the season. Stomachs taken in April, May, 
August, October, and November contained no vegetable food what- 
ever. The one stomach taken in September held 44 percent of elder- 
berries, which is exceptional. A greater number of stomachs in this 
month would probably have reduced this percentage considerably. 

Animal food. — Of the animal food, beetles, almost entirely of harm- 
ful species, amount to 5 percent. The two families most prominent 
in the food are the longicorns (Cerambycidae) and the metallic wood- 
borers (Buprestidae), which are the very ones whose larvae are so 
extensively eaten by woodpeckers. Next to these were the click 
beetles (Elateridae), that bore into various plants and do much dam- 
age, and a few weevils or snout beetles (Rhynchophora). A ground 
beetle (Carabidae) was found in one stomach, and a ladybird (Coc- 
cinellidae) in another, these being the only useful beetles taken. 

Bees, wasps, and a few ants (Hymenoptera) amount to 27 percent. 
They are eaten regularly in every month when the bird is on its sum- 
mer range. Five stomachs were taken in the vicinity of an apiary, 
but not one of them contained a trace of a honey bee, though one 
bird had eaten 24 percent of robber flies (Asilidae), which have been 
known to prey upon bees. 

Bugs (Hemiptera) aggregate about 20 percent of the food of the 
ash-throat, which is the largest showing for that order of insects yet 
found in the food of any flycatcher. They were all eaten in the 
months from May to August inclusive, and form a good percentage 
in each of those months. They belong to the families of stinkbugs 
(Pentatomidae), shield bugs (Scutelleridae), leafhoppers (Jassidae), 
jumping plant lice (Psyllidae), common plant lice (Aphididae), tree 
hoppers (Membracidae), cicadas (Cicadidae), and assassin bugs (Redu- 
viidae). The last is a family of predaceous insects which are useful, 
as they destroy some harmful insects, but all the others are injurious, 
and some are pests. While many of these are taken upon the wing, 
probably some are picked from plants. One bird was seen on a mus- 
tard plant feeding upon the plant lice, which completely infested the 



plant. One stomach was entirely filled with tree hoppers and two 
with cicadas. 

Flies (Diptera) amount to about 14 percent and were eaten in nearly 
every month. Robber flies were identified in two stomachs, one of 
which has already been referred to. Most of the others were of the 
family of the common house fly (Muscidse). 

Caterpillars were found in 20 stomachs and moths in 7. Together 
they amount to 19 percent of the food. This shows that caterpillars 
are a favorite article of food with this bird, and proves that it does 
not take all its food on the wing. While no stomach was entirely 
filled with caterpillars, one contained nothing but moths. 

Grasshoppers formed about 5 percent of the food, and were mostly 
taken in May, June, and July. One stomach contained nothing else. 
As they do not often come within reach of flycatchers, these insects 
must be especially sought for. 

Various other insects and spiders amount to a little more than 3 
percent. Among these the two most prominent were dragonflies and 
Raphidia. These last are small insects with remarkably long necks, 
and as they prey upon other insects and are said to feed upon the 
larvae of the codling moth, their destruction by birds is to be deplored. 
Spiders are eaten by the ash-throat quite regularly, but not exten- 
sively. Apparently, most birds take spiders when found, but do not 
seek for them. 

Vegetable food. — Vegetable food was found in 9 stomachs. Of these, 
5 contained remains of elderberries; 2, bits of other small fruit; and 
2, skins which might have been those of cultivated varieties. The 
total for the year is 8 percent. 

Feeding of young. — Besides the examination of stomachs of the 
ash-throated flycatcher, observations were made upon the feeding of 
a nest of young situated in the cornice of an abandoned ranch house. 
The nest contained four young about a week old when first discovered. 
The number of feedings and times of observations are given in the 
following table: 


Hours in 

of feed- 

Hours in 

of feed- 

2. 07-3. 07 
2. 13-3. 13 



June 22 



June 26 


June 27 

5. 15- 6. 15 
11. 27-12. 27 
5.26- 6.26 



4. 47-5. 47 


June 28 


In all, the nest was observed for eight and one-half hours and 119 
feedings were noted, or an average of 14 feedings per hour. Both 
parent birds took part in the feeding until the female was unfortu- 
nately killed after the first hour of feeding on the morning of June 27. 
It will be noted that during this early hour more feedings were ob- 
served than at any other, and that at practically the same hour the 
next morning, June 28, the male bird alone was able to feed only 16 
times. However, the young did well, and left the nest that afternoon. 
As the day was about fourteen hours long when the above notes were 
taken, each of the young birds must have been fed about 49 times 
every day, or 196 insects in all. It is safe to say that the parents 
.would eat enough more to bring the total up to 250. Several nests 
of this bird in an orchard would make quite a difference in the num- 
ber of insects surviving to propagate the next year's supply. 


From the foregoing it is evident that the ash-throat attacks no 
product of husbandry, but keeps up an incessant war upon insects. 
Of these it devours a vast number in the course of the year, mostly 
harmful species. This bird likes to reside in the vicinity of houses, 
gardens, and orchards. Let it be encouraged by all means. 


(Tyr 'annus verticalis.) 

The Arkansas kingbird (PL II) inhabits the lower and warmer part 
of the State, mainly as a summer resident. It is not so domestic as 
its eastern relative, the common kingbird, and seems to prefer the 
hill country, with scattering oaks, rather than the orchard or the 
vicinity of towns or ranch buildings. 

For the investigation of the kingbird's food 78 stomachs were 
available. Most of them were taken from March to July inclusive, 
but a few in September, October, and December. The bird's yearly 
food is made up of 87 percent of animal matter to 13 percent of 

Animal food. — The animal food is composed of insects and a few 
bones of a batrachian (tree frog or salamander). Both the eastern 
and western kingbirds have been accused of destroying honey bees 
{Apis mellifera) to a harmful extent. It is said that the birds linger 
about the hives and snap up the bees as they return home laden with 
honey. Remains of honey bees were searched for with special care, 
and were found to constitute 5 percent of the food. Thirty-one 
individuals were discovered in 5 stomachs. Of these, 29 were drones, 
or males, and 2 were workers. In 3 stomachs containing males there 
was no other food, and when it is borne in mind that there are thou- 

Bull. 34, Biological Survey, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture. 

Plate II 


wu/s £ty<rss/jry£erigs. 

IHoenS Co.Baltimcre. 

Arkansas Kingbird 


sands of worker bees to one drone, it appears that the latter must be 
carefully selected. As a rule, the destruction of drones is not an 
injury to the colony, and often is a positive benefit. The food of the 
eastern kingbird shows practically the same ratio between drones and 
workers. Hymenoptera other than honey bees amount to 38 percent, 
and include wild bees, wasps, and ants, with a few parasitic species. 
The latter are very useful insects, and their destruction is an injury, 
but fortunately the kingbird is not especially fond of them. 
The late Walter Bryant, of Santa Rosa, Calif., says: 

Mr. A. Barnett, of San Diego County, had 300 swarms of bees, which attracted the 
flycatchers to such an extent that he made some investigations to ascertain to what 
extent they might be damaging the bee industry. 

Over 100 flycatchers were dissected, principally Arkansas flycatchers and phoebes 
(Black and Say's?). In all of the Arkansas flycatchers drones were found, but no 
working bees, although in many cases the birds were gorged. In most of the phoebes 
drone bees were found; the only exception was that of a phoebe (Say's?) in which a 
bee's sting was found in the base of the tongue. 

The birds were all shot about apiaries and were seen darting upon and catching the 
bees. a 

Such testimony is sufficient to clear these flycatchers of the sus- 
picion that they interfere with the bee industry. 

Beetles of various families form about 14 percent of the food. 
They are all harmful species except a few predaceous ground beetles 
and ladybird beetles. They were taken very regularly through the 
months, and appear to be a favorite food. 

Orthoptera — grasshoppers and crickets — amount to 20 percent. 
They were taken pretty regularly through all the months. Even 
the 3 stomachs secured in December show an average of 44 percent. 
Probably few of these were caught on the wing, and their abundance 
in the food indicates that this bird, like many others, forsakes its 
usual style of feeding and goes to the ground to catch grasshoppers 
whenever they are numerous. Two stomachs were entirely filled 
with these insects, and in several others they amounted to over 90 
percent of the contents. 

Miscellaneous insects, consisting of caterpillars and moths, a few 
bugs, flies, and a dragonfly, constituted 10 percent. Several stomachs 
contained a number of moths, and one was entirely filled with them. 
Not many birds eat these insects extensively in the adult form, while 
the larvse (caterpillars) are a prominent feature of the diet of most 
insectivorous birds. Besides insects, bones of some batrachian, 
probably a tree frog, were found in three stomachs and an eggshell in 
one. They amount to only a trifling percentage. Frogs or sala- 
manders seem queer food for a flycatcher, but their bones have been 

«Zoe, IV, pp. 57-58, 1893. 
38301— Bull. 34—10 3 


found in the stomachs of several species of tree-haunting insectivorous 

The following is a list of insects identified in the stomach of the 
Arkansas kingbird: 


Platynus sp. Epicauta sp. 

Aphodius fimetarius. Hydaticus stagnalis. 

Amphicoma ursina. Agabus sp. 

Cremastochilus sp. Silpha ramosa. 

Geotrupes sp. Staphylinus luteipes. 

Megapenihes turbulentus. Balaninus sp. 


Apis mellifera. Andrena sp. 

Prosopis affinis Cry plus sp. 

Habropoda sp. Ophion bilineata. 
Meiissodes sp. 


Euschistus servus. Calocoris rapidus. 

Nezara sp. Eurygaster alternatus. 

Podisus modestus. 

Vegetable food. — The vegetable food of the Arkansas kingbird 
amounts to about 13 percent, and consists mostly of fruit. It was 
all contained in 15 stomachs, of which 10 held elderberries {8am- 
bucus) and 5 various small berries not positively identified. One 
also contained an olive, the only cultivated fruit found. A few 
seeds also were noted. 


In a summary of the economic significance of the food of this king- 
bird it should be noted that the bird must be judged by its destruc- 
tion of insects, for, since it does not eat any product of cultivation 
to an appreciable extent, its vegetable food can be disregarded. 
The offense of eating honey bees, so long laid at this bird's door, is 
practically disproved, for the more or less useless drones eaten far 
outnumber the useful workers. The injury the kingbird does, if 
any, is by eating predaceous beetles and parasitic Hymenoptera, 
but it takes these in such small numbers as to leave no reasonable 
doubt that the bird is one of our most useful species. 


One other species of Tyrannus (T. vociferans) , commonly known as 
the Cassin kingbird, occurs in the southern half of the State, where 
it frequents orchards and ranches. It is less abundant than the 
Arkansas kingbird, but has similar habits, and an examination ol 
several stomachs shows that the food of the two species is practically 
the same. 



(Sayornis say a.) 

While the Say phoebe inhabits California throughout the year, it 
is locally wanting in summer in many places west of the Sierra. In 
the fruit-growing regions visited, the writer met with only one indi- 
vidual during the spring and summer months, but these phoebes 
became fairly numerous in September, and increased in numbers as 
the season advanced. The investigation of their food was based 
upon the examination of 86 stomachs, taken in every month from 
September to March inclusive, and 2 taken in June. This bird was 
shown to be one of the most exclusively insectivorous of the family, 
although no stomachs were available for the months when insects 
were most numerous. The food consists of 98 percent of animal 
matter and 2 percent of vegetable. 

Animal food. — As a number of predaceous ground beetles (Carab- 
idse) were in these stomachs, a separate account was kept of them. 
They amount to somewhat over 5 percent, and are pretty evenly dis- 
tributed through the months, except February, in which 25 percent 
were eaten. These were in one stomach, which they half filled, and 
as only 2 stomachs were taken in that month, the percentage was 
probably made too great. It seems impossible that all these beetles, 
which are rather averse to flying, could have been caught on the wing, 
especially since none were taken in the warmer months, when they 
are most active. In the other beetle food, which amounts to 10 
percent, a few ladybirds (Coccinellidse) were found. These and the 
ground beetles must be recorded against the bird, but the fault is not 
serious, The remainder of the beetles were all of injurious or neutral 

Hymenoptera, including quite a number of ants, amount to 35 
percent, and were contained in 69 stomachs, or over 78 percent of 
the whole. This illustrates the statement that these birds are wasp- 
catchers rather than flycatchers. A few parasitic species were 
among the rest. Bugs, as is so often the case, were eaten quite 
regularly, but in rather small quantities. They amount to about 5 
percent of the food, and belong to the following families: Stinkbugs 
(Pentatomidse), the squash-bug family (Coreidse), leaf bugs (Cap- 
sidse), negro bugs (Corimelsenidse), leaf hoppers (Jassidse), tree hop- 
pers (Membracidse), and assassin bugs (Reduviidse). These last are 
reckoned as useful insects, but they were identified in only one 

Flies (Diptera) aggregate 10 percent of the food, and were eaten 
mostly in the months of January, March, and November; but proba- 
bly this is accidental and would not hold true with a greater number 
of stomachs. The only family identified was that of the common 


house fly (Muscidae). One stomach was entirely filled with them. 
Moths and caterpillars (Lepidoptera) appeared in 27 stomachs, and 
amount to something more than 10 percent of the food. Moths were 
found in 15 stomachs and caterpillars in 12. This is contrary to the 
usual rule that in this order of insects the larvae are eaten by birds 
much more freely than are the adults. 

Grasshoppers and crickets (Orthoptera) are eaten by the Say 
phoebe to the extent of 14 percent, which is the highest record of 
any flycatcher except the Arkansas kingbird. These, taken in con- 
nection with the ground beetles, ants, and caterpillars, indicate a 
somewhat terrestrial habit of feeding. Nearly 40 percent of the 
grasshoppers consumed were taken in September, after which they 
steadily decreased in quantity. One stomach was entirely filled with 

Miscellaneous insects, spiders, and a few other creatures make up 
the rest of the animal food, about 8 percent. Of these, spiders were 
found in 10 stomachs, dragonflies in 5, sowbugs (Oniscus) in 1, and 
another unidentified crustacean in 1. 

Vegetable food. — The vegetable food of the Say phoebe amounts to 
2 percent, and is made up of a little fruit, a few seeds, and some 
rubbish. One seed and a stem of a fig were the only indications of 
cultivated fruit. Remains of elderberries were noted in 3 stomachs, 
seeds in 4, pulp of a large seed or nut in 1, and rubbish in 4. 


The economic relations of the Say phoebe depend wholly upon its 
animal food, for it eats practically no vegetable matter of any inter- 
est to man. That it takes a few useful insects can not be denied, 
but the stomachs' contents show that they are far outnumbered by 
harmful species, and the balance is clearly in favor of the bird. 


( Sayornis nigricans . ) 

The black phoebe inhabits the lower valleys of California, and in 
most parts can be found throughout the year. For a nest site it 
selects the wall of a canyon, a shed, the overhanging eaves of a barn, 
or, better still, a bridge. It has a pronounced preference for the vicin- 
ity of water. Even a watering trough by the roadside usually has 
its attendant phoebe. 

While camping beside a stream in California, the writer observed 
the feeding habits of the black phoebe. The nesting season was 
over, and apparently the birds had nothing to do but capture food. 
This they appeared to be doing all the time. In the morning, at 
the first glimmer of daylight, a phoebe could always be seen flitting 


from rock to rock, and probably it caught an insect on each flight. 
This activity was kept up all day. Even after supper, when it was 
so dark that notes had to be written by the aid of the camp fire, the 
phoebes were still hunting insects. 

Observations like these convince any reasoning person that the 
number of insects destroyed in a year by this species is something 
enormous, and the examination of stomachs confirms field observa- 
tions. This bird eats a higher percentage of insects than any fly- 
catcher yet studied except the western wood pewee. For the study 
of this phoebe's food 333 stomachs were available, collected in every 
month in the year and from various parts of the State. They show 
99.39 percent of animal matter to 0.61 percent of vegetable. 

Animal food. — In examining the food contained in the stomachs of 
the black phoebes, account was kept of the beetles that are generally 
supposed to be useful, namely, the ground beetles (Carabidse), the 
ladybirds (Coccinellidse), and the tiger beetles (Cicindelidse). It was 
found that these beetles were eaten pretty regularly throughout the 
year; in fact, there is no month which does not show a certain per- 
centage of them. The average for the year, however, is only 2.82, 
or practically 3 percent, not a heavy tax on the useful beetles. Other 
beetles, all more or less harmful, amount to 10 percent. They were 
eaten in every month, and though the quantity varies to some extent, 
the variation appears to be accidental. 

Hymenoptera amount to over 35 percent of the yearly food. They 
were found in 252 out of the 333 stomachs, and in 11 there was no 
other food. They are eaten throughout the year. March is the 
month of least consumption, with only 1 percent, while August shows 
the maximum, nearly 60 percent. A few ants and several parasitic 
species are eaten, but the great bulk of this item is made up of wild 
bees and wasps. Not a trace of a honey bee was found in any stomach. 

Hemiptera of several families were eaten to the extent of about 7 
percent. They were pretty uniformly distributed through the food 
of the year, except that none were taken in May, which, however, is 
probably accidental. Four of these families are aquatic, which partly 
explains why the bird is so fond of the vicinity of water. The Redu- 
viidse are insectivorous, and therefore useful. They were found in 
but one stomach. The other families are vegetable feeders; all of 
them likely to be harmful, and most of them pests. The plant lice 
found in the food are rather unexpected, but, as already noted, fly- 
catchers do not take all their food on the wing. 

Flies (Diptera) were eaten by the black phoebe to the extent of 
over 28 percent. They appear in every month, and range from 3 
percent in August to 64 percent in April. They were found in 127 
stomachs, 10 of which contained nothing else. The house-fly family 
(Muscidse), the crane flies (Tipulidae), robber flies (Asilidas), and one 


horsefly (Tabanidse) were the only ones identified. Grasshoppers and 
crickets are not extensively eaten by the phoebe. They amount to 
about 2 J percent for the year, being eaten rather irregularly; five 
months show none at all. The greatest consumption was in April, 
nearly 8 percent. 

Moths and caterpillars are eaten to the extent of 8 percent. They 
were found in 72 stomachs — moths in 38, caterpillars in 32, and both 
in 2. A few unidentified insects and several miscellaneous ones, 
principally dragonflies, with some spiders, make up the rest of the 
animal food, 6 percent. Dragonflies are taken quite frequently, but 
generally in no great numbers. One stomach was entirely filled with 
them, and several were nearly so. The fact is, these insects are so 
large that often a single one fills a phoebe' s stomach. These insects 
are too strong and agile upon the wing to be captured by anything less 
expert than a flycatcher, and in the few instances where they appear in 
other birds' stomachs they were probably found dead. The spiders 
eaten by the phoebe are perhaps snapped from the tops of weeds as 
the bird flies over, or taken from the web. While quite frequently 
eaten, they form only a small percentage of the diet. 

The following is a list of insects identified in the stomachs of the 
black phoebe : 


Elaphrus riparius. Carpophilus hemipterus. 

Trisena longula. Heterocerus tristis. 

Brady cellus rupestris. Canthon sp. 

Laccobius ellipticus. Aphodius granarius. 

Philonthus pubes. Aphodius vittatus. 

Hippodamia convergens. Aphodius ungulatus. 

Coccinella transversoguttata. Amphicoma ursina. 

Coccinella calif ornica. Gastroidea sp. 

Chilocorus orbus. Lina scripta. 

Cryptorhopalum apicale. Diabrotica soror. 

Hister bimaculatus. Blapstinus pulverulentus. 

Saprinus obscurus. Corphyra sp. 

Saprinus lugens. .Notoxus alamedx. 
Saprinus lubricus. 


Hygrotrechus sp. Largus succinctus. 

In addition to the above species the following families of Hemiptera 
were identified: 

Giant water bugs (Belostomatidse). Chinch-bug family (Lygaeidae). 

Creeping water bugs (Naucoridae). Stink bugs (Pentatomidae). 
Broad-shouldered water striders(Veliidae). Leafhoppers (Jassidae). 

Water striders (Hydrobatidae). Tree hoppers (Membracidse). 

Assassin bugs (Reduviidae). Jumping plant lice (Psyllidae). 

Leaf bugs (Capsidae). Plant lice (Aphididae). 
Red bugs (Pyrrhocoridae). 


Vegetable food. — The vegetable food of the black phoebe amounts 
altogether to only 0.61 percent, and may be classified under two heads: 
Fruit and other vegetable matter. Fruit forms 0.34 percent, and 
the only species identified were elderberries in 19 stomachs, dogwood 
(Cornus) in one, and Rubus (blackberries or raspberries) in one. 
This last may have been cultivated; and some fruit skins found in 1 
stomach may also have been of a domestic variety. Miscellaneous 
vegetable food consists of poison oak seeds in 2 stomachs, a catkin in 
1 , and rubbish in 1 . 

Food of young.— Among the 333 stomachs of the black phoebe were 
those of 24 nestlings, varying in age from 1 to 2 weeks. Their food 
was tabulated by itself to ascertain if it differed from that of the 
adults. No great difference was apparent in the kind of food eaten 
nor in the relative proportions. One point, however, was noted. 
The percentage of animal food was a little lower than in the adults; 
not because the young had intentionally eaten any vegetable food, 
but because, along with other food, the parents had fed a quantity of 
rubbish, dead grass, leaves, and the like. The same apparent care- 
lessness as to the food of their }^oung has been observed in other 


In a summary of the food of the black phoebe the vegetable part 
may be dismissed as unimportant. Of the insect food we have less 
than 3 percent of theoretically useful beetles, a few parasitic Hymen- 
optera, and a few dragonflies, say, 5 percent in all, to offset 94 
percent of harmful species. This phoebe is an efficient insect 
destroyer, and is an invaluable asset to the people of California or any 
other State it may inhabit. It should be rigidly protected and in 
every way encouraged. 


( Myiochanes richardsoni.) 

The western wood pewee is a familiar sight in the fruit-growing 
sections of the State, where its time is spent in a tireless search for 
insects. Wherever in the orchard there is a dead limb, there on the 
outermost twig perches the pewee, and from its lookout sallies forth 
to snatch up any luckless insect that comes within range. Several 
such perches are usually to be found not far apart, and the bird 
occupies them in turn as the game becomes scarce in one or the other 
place. The little western flycatcher (Empidonax difficilis) has the 
same habits, and shares these watchtowers with the pewee. Observa- 
tion of one of these perches for three minutes, watch in hand, fur- 
nished a good idea of the bird's industry. In the first minute it took 
7 insects, in the second 5, and in the third 6, or 18 in the three minutes. 


Apparently it had been doing the same thing for an hour, perhaps all 
the morning. These observations were made at 10 a. m., when the 
air was warm and insects were on the wing. Either the same bird 
or another was watched the next day at 9 a. m. near the same spot, 
and 17 captures were noted in eight minutes. This morning was 
cooler, and fewer insects were abroad than on the previous day. The 
mean of these two observations is 4 insects per minute. If the bird 
keeps this up for even ten hours a day, the total is 2,400 insects. It 
hardly seems possible that one bird could eat so many unless they 
were very small, but this pewee is rarely seen when it is not actively 
hunting. When the young are in the nest, the parents must make 
great havoc with insects if the nestlings are fed at the above rate. 

The pewee remains in California only about six months in the year, 
but fortunately this is the season when insects are most numerous. 
One hundred and thirty-seven stomachs, taken in the months from 
April to September inclusive, were available for examination. 
Animal matter formed 99.91 percent of the contents and vegetable 
matter 0.09 percent, or less than one-tenth of 1 percent. The per- 
centage of animal matter is the highest yet found in the food of any 

Animal food. — Beetles amount to about 5 percent of the food. 
With the exception of Carabidae, found in 4 stomachs, and Coccinel- 
lidaB, in 5, all were either harmful or neutral species. 

The following beetles were identified: 

Coctinella 9-notata nevadica. Aphodius vittatus. 

Coccinella californica. Agrilus sp. nov. 

Coctinella transversoguttata. Agriotes sp. 

Hippodamia ambigua. Gastroidea sp. 

Hippodamia convergens. Blapstinus sp. 

Ulster bimaculatus. Ptilinus basalts. 

Saprinus plenus. Baris rubripes. 
Carpophilus hemipterus. 

Hymenoptera aggregate over 39 percent, and are of wild species — 
that is, there are no domestic bees among them. They were found 
in 93 stomachs, and in 14 there was nothing else. Parasitic species 
were identified in 7 stomachs and ants in only 2 — an unusually small 
record for ants, which are favorite food with flycatchers. 

Hemiptera, or bugs, are evidently not esteemed as an article of 
diet by this bird, for they amount to less than 2 percent of the food. 
None were eaten in April or May, but nearly half the whole number 
were taken in August. 

Diptera amount to nearly 40 percent, slightly exceeding Hymenop- 
tera. No other flycatcher has yet been noted whose food contained 
more Diptera than Hymenoptera; hence the name flycatcher is pecu- 
liarly applicable to this pewee. Diptera were found in 84 stomachs, 


and 20 contained no other food. This would seem to indicate that 
flies are preferred to other insects. The families Muscidse, Tipulidae, 
and Asilidse were recognized. 

Caterpillars and moths amount to nearly 5 percent. Though not 
taken in great numbers, they are eaten regularly through the season. 
September shows the greatest consumption — over 14 percent. Moths 
were found in 18 stomachs and caterpillars in 4. One stomach was 
entirely filled with the remains of moths. 

Sundry insects, amounting to nearly 9 percent, make up the rest 
of the animal food. Dragonflies were found in 7 stomachs, and 1 
contained nothing else. Ephemerids were in 4 stomachs, lace-winged 
flies in 1, spiders in 3, and the so-called jointed spiders in 1. 

The character of the food shows that it is taken on the wing more 
exclusively than that of any other bird yet examined. Of the crea- 
tures that do not fly, ants were found in 2 stomachs, caterpillars in 
4, spiders in 3, and jointed spiders in 1. As some ants fly, these 
may have been taken in mid-air, but they were too badly broken to 
determine this point. 

Vegetable food. — Vegetable matter was found in 4 stomachs, but 
in 3 of these it was mere rubbish. One contained seeds of the elder- 
berry, the only vegetable food observed. 


The western wood pewee, while often an inhabitant of the orchard, 
does not deign to taste of its product, if the above record may be 
assumed to be conclusive. Its diet is composed almost exclusively 
of insects, and of these a large majority are harmful species. 


(Empidonax difficilis. ) 

The western flycatcher avoids alike the hot valleys and the high 
mountains of California during the warmer months, but is more gen- 
erally distributed in migration. For a nesting site it selects a tree, 
a crevice among the roots of an overturned stump, a bracket under a 
porch, a beam under a bridge, or a hole under an overhanging sod on 
the bank of a stream. It has much the same liking for water as the 
black phoebe, though even more pronounced. A small stream run- 
ning through or near an orchard appears to supply ideal conditions 
for this little flycatcher, as the orchard makes an excellent foraging 
ground, and if it does not afford a nesting site, the bank of the stream 
will. The bird is quiet and unobtrusive, and often the first notice 
one has of its presence is to see it dart from the end of a near-by 
twig into the air in pursuit of an insect. It seems to be thus engaged 
all day; in fact, the writer has never seen one of these birds when it 
was not in search of food. 


In the laboratory investigation of the food of the western fly- 
catcher 141 stomachs were examined. They were collected from 
March to October inclusive, and probably give a fair idea of the 
bird's food for these months. Analysis gives 99.28 percent of animal 
food to 0.72 percent of vegetable; in other words, there was less than 
three-fourths of 1 percent of vegetable matter. Only one other 
flycatcher, the western wood pewee, eats so little vegetable food. 

Animal food. — In this analysis a separate account was kept of 
the ladybird beetles (Coccinellidse) . This bird appears to eat more 
of them than does any other flycatcher, but the number for the 
whole season is not large enough to be very serious. The greatest 
consumption occurred in August, a little more than 7 percent. The 
average for the season is 2\ percent. Other beetles amount to 
nearly 6 percent, nearly all harmful, the exception being a few 
ground beetles (Carabidse) . 

Hymenoptera form the largest constituent of the food of this as 
of most other flycatchers. They amount to over 38 percent, and are 
an important item during every month of the bird's stay on its sum- 
mer range. The highest percentage is in March, 61 ; but as only 
3 stomachs were taken in that month, the record can not be con- 
sidered as final. June shows 52 percent, and is probably nearer the 
true maximum, although August and September do not fall much 
below. Ants were found in 14 stomachs, and parasitic Hymenoptera 
in but 2. Hymenoptera in general were found in 99 stomachs, and 
6 contained nothing else. No honeybees were identified. 

Hemiptera (bugs) amount to nearly 9 percent of the food. They 
were found in 49 stomachs, 2 of which were entirely filled with them. 
The greatest number were taken in August, when they constituted 
29 percent. The following families were identified: 

Stink-bug family (Pentatomidse). Leaf hopper family (Jassidae). 

Chinch-bug family (Lygseidae). Tree-hopper family (Membracidae). 

Leaf-bug family (Capsidae). 

Diptera amount to a little more than 31 percent of the whole food. 
They rank next to Hymenoptera, and, like those insects, are taken 
very regularly during every month of the bird's stay in the State. 
While October is the month of maximum consumption, 47 percent, 
several other months are but little below. Only 3 families were 
identified : The crane flies (Tipulidse) , the soldier flies (Stratiomyiidse) , 
and the house flies (Muscidse). 

Lepidoptera, in the shape of moths and caterpillars, amount to 
about 7 percent for the year, and were found in every month except 
March. They appeared in 36 stomachs, of which only 7 contained 
the adult insects — moths — and 29 the larvae or caterpillars. This 
taste is in contrast with that of the black phoebe and the wood pewee, 


which prefer moths, but is quite in accordance with the general rule 
among insectivorous birds. Special interest attaches to tins item 
of the bird's food from the fact that larvae of the codling moth were 
found in 3 stomachs. In one 15 were counted, which amounted to 
89 percent of the food. In another they were too badly broken. to 
be counted, but formed 55 percent of the contents. In the third 
only 1 was found, amounting to 3 percent. Evidently these 
insects were hibernating in a crevice in the bark of a tree or some 
similar place, and were there discovered by the flycatcher. 

A few unidentified insects and some spiders make up the remainder 
of the animal food — about 6 percent. Spiders were found in 19 
cases — in 1 stomach amounting to 70 percent — and these, with 
the caterpillars, particularly the codling-moth larvae, show that a 
considerable percentage of the food of this bird is not caught on the 

The following is a list of insects identified from the stomachs of 
the western flycatcher: 


Aleochara bimaculata. Gastroidea cyanea. 

Hippodamia ambigua. Diabrotica soror. 

Hippodamia convergens. Monoxia sordida. 

Coccinella calif ornica. Epitrix sp. 

Scymnus sp. Eulabis ruj 

Telephones divisus. Blapstinus ruficeps. 

Aphodius sp. Deporaus glastinus. 

Limonius infuscatus. Balaninus sp. 

Stratiomyia maculosa. 
Carpocapsa pomonella. 


Vegetable food. — Vegetable matter was found in 16 stomachs, 
though some of it could not properly be called food. One stomach 
contained seeds of Rubus fruit (blackberries or raspberries) ; 7, 
seeds of elderberries; 1, the skin of an unidentified fruit and a 
seed of tarweed (Madia); while 6 held rubbish. The Rubus fruit 
might have been cultivated, but probably was not. 

Food of young. — Among the stomachs whose contents have been 
discussed were those of 15 nestlings, varying in age from 48 hours to 
2 weeks, which show no marked differences from those of adults. 
Only 2 of these stomachs contained any vegetable matter; in 1 
was 15 percent of rubbish; in the other 3 percent. Gravelstones 
were found in several cases, and have been observed in the young 
of other insectivorous birds, even when not found in adults of the 
same species. 


The young in One nest were fed 24 times in an hour. Owing to 
the nest's location the number of nestlings was not ascertained. If 
there were four, as is probable, and the feeding was continued fourteen 
hours, each was fed 84 times during the day. 


From the foregoing it is evident that neither the farmer nor the 
fruit grower has anything to fear from the western flycatcher. Prac- 
tically it eats no vegetable food, and its animal diet contains less 
than the normal proportion of useful elements. It should be rigidly 
protected at all seasons. 


Four or more other species of the genus Empidonax occur within 
the limits of California. They are not so domestic as the one just 
discussed, but their food habits are quite similar. One, E. trailli, is 
locally quite abundant, but chooses the willows along water courses 
for its home rather than the orchards. The others are less widely 
distributed and therefore of less economic importance. A few stom- 
achs of each species have been examined, but they indicate no remark- 
able differences in food habits from those of the western flycatcher. 


(Otocoris alpestris chrysolsema, rubida, and other subspecies.) 

Not only in California, but in a considerable portion of temperate 
North America, some form of the horned lark occurs wherever plain 
or valley presents the condition suited to its peculiar needs. The 
former generic name, EremopTiila, or desert lover, was peculiarly 
appropriate, but unfortunately it was necessary to displace it. Bare, 
level ground with scant herbage and no trees or shrubs appears to be 
the ideal condition for the horned lark. While on the Pacific coast 
they are not called upon to endure excessive cold, yet elsewhere they 
endure low temperatures not only with indifference but with apparent 
pleasure. The writer has met them on an open prairie when the 
temperature was nearly 30 degrees below zero, and though a fierce gale 
was blowing from the northwest they did not exhibit the least sign of 
discomfort, but rose and flew against the wind, then circled around 
and alighted on the highest and most windswept place they could 
find. Probably they remain through the night in these bleak spots, 
for they may frequently be seen there after sunset. Most animals 
seek shelter from wind and cold, even though it be nothing but the 
leeward side of a ridge or hummock, but the horned lark refuses to 
do even this, and by preference alights on the top of the knoll where 


the wind cuts the worst. It seems strange that in so small a body 
the vital heat can be maintained under such adverse conditions, but 
if one of these birds be examined, its body will be found completely 
covered with a thick layer of fat, like the blubber on certain marine 
animals. This indicates that horned larks have plenty to eat, and 
that their food is largely carbonaceous. The necessity for such heat- 
producing food does not exist in the case of the California horned 
larks, but nevertheless they eat the same substances as those in a 
colder climate, although probably in reduced quantities. 

The food of this bird consists largely of seeds picked up from the 
ground. Very naturally a bird that subsists on scattered seeds would 
pick up kernels of grain if they came in its way, and some persons 
have declared that this bird does serious damage to newly sown grain. 
As they sometimes associate in immense flocks, they may do harm 
when large numbers alight on a field before the grain has been har- 
rowed in. Drilling the grain, which is the modern method, will ob- 
viate tins trouble. Most of the grain eaten by these larks is waste 
from the harvest field. 

For the investigation of the food of the horned larks of California, 
259 stomachs, collected in every month except May, were available. 
While very irregularly distributed through the year, they probably 
give a fair idea of the annual food. In the analysis of the contents of 
these stomachs, approximately 9 percent of animal food was found to 
91 percent of vegetable. 

Animal food. — The horned lark is essentially a vegetarian, but eats 
a considerable number of insects during the reproductive season and 
feeds many to the young. Most of the animal food was taken between 
March and June, inclusive. The latter has the highest record, nearly 
30 percent. As this lark is an early breeder, it begins eating insects 
early in the season. After June there is a rapid decrease in animal 
food, and the stomachs taken in November contained none whatever. 

For convenience this part of the diet may be divided into the two 
items, beetles and other insects. Beetles amount to about 5 percent. 
Like the animal food in general, they were found in greatest quanti- 
ties in the stomachs taken from March to June, the latter month 
showing a little over 20 percent. While a few predaceous ground 
beetles were eaten, the great bulk of these insects were of harmful 
species, among which were some snout beetles or weevils. The re- 
mainder of the animal food, 4 percent, consisted of bugs, ants, cater- 
pillars, and a few miscellaneous insects and spiders. Of these, the 
greater number are either harmful or neutral. 

Vegetable food. — The great interest in the food of the horned lark 
centers about the vegetable part. This consists of grain and weed 
seed. Corn was found in only one stomach. Wheat was contained 


in 21 stomachs, taken in four months: January, February,. June, and 
July. The irregularity in eating grain would seem to indicate that it 
is not a favorite food. The midsummer records may be explained on 
the ground that these are the harvest months in California. But it is 
not supposable that wheat could be obtained in January and Febru- 
ary and not in December or March. The greatest amount was eaten 
in February, 74 percent, but only 5 stomachs were taken in this 
month, and probably a greater number would have given a lower per- 
centage. The average for the year is 9 percent. Of all the grains, 
however, oats are the favorite with the horned larks, as they are with 
so many other seed-eating birds. They were eaten much more regu- 
larly than wheat and in greater quantities. They were found in 142 
stomachs, and November gives the highest record, 77 percent, while 
June has the lowest, a little over 8 percent. The average for the year 
is 31 percent. If all these oats were taken from the farmer's crop it 
might be a serious tax, but evidently only a few of them are so ob- 
tained. Those eaten in March may have been from newly sown 
fields, and those in June and July from the ripening crop, but the rest 
must have been waste grain gleaned from the fields, Moreover, Cal- 
ifornia is covered with wild and volunteer oats, which, ripening at 
other times than the cultivated ones, furnish an inexhaustible supply 
of food for many birds. It is certain that most of the oats eaten by 
the California horned larks are either waste or volunteer grain, and 
have no economic value. 

The particular food of horned larks is the seeds of weeds and grasses. 
These aggregate 51 percent of the annual diet, being eaten in every 
month, and constitute a respectable percentage of the food in each. 
The month of least consumption is January, when they amount to over 
19 percent; August shows the maximum quantity, nearly 99 percent, 
but as only 4 stomachs were taken in tins month, probably ample 
material would reduce this high percentage. It is by the consump- 
tion of weed seed that the horned lark makes amends for doing a little 
damage to grain. The quantity of seeds of noxious weeds destroyed 
annually by tins species throughout the country is very great. Fruit 
does not appear in the stomachs of horned larks. The bird asks noth- 
ing of the orchardist — not even the shelter of his trees. 


In the final analysis of the food habits of the horned lark there is 
but one tenable ground of complaint, namely, that it does some dam- 
age to newly sown grain. This can be largely remedied by harrowing 
in immediately after sowing, and can be wholly prevented by drilling. 
The bird's insect diet is practically all in its favor, and in eating weed 
seed it confers a decided benefit on the farmer. It should be ranked 


as one of our useful species, and protected by law and by public 


The jays have acquired a questionable reputation owing to the fact 
that they pilfer the nests of other birds and prey upon the farmer's 
crops. That at times they are guilty of both of these sins can not be 
denied. On the first of these counts the California jay is far more 
culpable than its eastern relative and does entirely too much nest 
robbing for the best interests of the State. It is also a despoiler of 
fruit in its season, and in this respect should be restrained. On the 
other hand, jays are conspicuous and ornamental elements in the bird 
fauna, and inasmuch as they consume many harmful insects, should 
not be wholly condemned. 

Some half dozen species and subspecies of jays occur in California. 
The food of the two most important species is discussed in the fol- 
lowing pages. 


(Cyanocitta stelleri frontalis and carbonacea.) 

The Steller jay inhabits the mountains and forested areas of Cali- 
fornia throughout the year. It sometimes ventures to the edges of 
the valleys and occasionally visits orchards for a taste of fruit, of 
which it is very fond, but in general it keeps to the hills and wilder 
parts of the canyons. It is fond of coniferous trees and is likely to 
be found wherever these abound. Where ranches have been estab- 
lished far up the canyons among the hills, this jay visits the ranch 
buildings. While it has all the characteristics of the jay family, it is 
rather more shy than either the California jay or the eastern bluejay. 

To determine the nature of the food of this species, 93 stomachs 
were available. They were distributed over the whole year except 
February and April. The contents consisted of animal food to the 
extent of 28 percent, and vegetable matter 72 percent. 

Animal food. — Beetles amount to a little more than 8 percent: 
Carabidse were found in 8 stomachs; all the others were of noxious 
species. One stomach was half filled with a species of weevil or snout 
beetle (TJiricolepis inornata), of which 35 individuals were counted, 
and there were probably more. Hymenoptera amount to about 11 
percent and are the largest item of animal food. They were found in 
30 stomachs altogether, and 2 were entirely filled with them. Ants 
were found in only 2 stomachs. Three honey bees were identified, one 
in each of 3 stomachs. One was a worker, another a drone, and the 

« For a more complete account of the food habits of the horned lark, see Bulletin 
No. 23, Biological Survey, U. S. Department of Agriculture, The Horned Larks and 
their Relation to Agriculture, by W. L. McAtee, 1905. 


third indeterminate. None of the smaller parasitic Hymenoptera 
were identified. The greater part of this item of food consisted of 
wasps and wild bees, which would indicate that this bird is an ener- 
getic and expert insect catcher. 

Hemiptera (bugs) are evidently not in favor with the Steller jay. 
They were found in but few stomachs and in small numbers and 
amount for the year to little more than 1 percent. Pentatomidse, or 
stinkbugs, and Scutelleridse, or shield bugs, were the only families 
identified. Diptera form only four-tenths of 1 percent. They were 
found in only 3 stomachs, taken at the same place and at the same 
hour. They consisted of crane flies (Tipulida?) filled with eggs. 

Orthoptera (grasshoppers and crickets) aggregate about 3.5 percent. 
They appeared in 28 stomachs and were the sole contents in one. 
Caterpillars and moths amount to a little more than 2 percent. The 
former were found in 17 stomachs and the latter in 2. 

The following insects from the stomachs of the Steller jay were 
identified : 


Sinodendron rugosum. Clerus sphegus. 

Dichelonycha fulgida. Thricolepis inornata. 


Apis mellifera. 

Of miscellaneous creatures, spiders were identified in 3 stomachs, 
raphidians in one, and sow bugs (Oniscus) in one; altogether they 
make up about one-half of 1 percent. Remains of vertebrates amount 
to a little more than 1 percent. They consist of hair and skin of a 
mammal found in one stomach, two bits of bone, probably of a frog, 
in one, and eggshells in 13. This last item is the worst in this jay's 
record, since it indicates that the bird is guilty of eating the eggs of 
smaller birds; but even this is not as bad as it looks. Only 6 of these 
egg-eating records occurred in June, the nesting month. All the rest 
were in September or later and were probably old shells picked up in 
abandoned nests or about ranch buildings or camp grounds. 

Vegetable food. — The vegetable food may be divided into fruit, grain, 
mast, and miscellaneous matter. Fruit amounts to 22 percent and 
was found in 55 stomachs. Prunes were identified in 2 stomachs, 
cherries in 2, grapes in2,Rubus fruits in 15, strawberries in 1, elder- 
berries in 15, bay laurel fruit in 1, unknown wild fruit in 2, and fruit 
pulp, not fully identified but thought to be of cultivated varieties, in 
16 stomachs. Thus 38 stomachs held fruit supposed to be cultivated. 
This number includes all containing Rubus fruits, which probably were 
not all cultivated — perhaps none of them were. The Steller jay un- 
doubtedly eats considerable fruit, but most of its range lies in unset- 
tled areas, and it is too shy to visit orchards, except those close to the 


timber. For the present, then, or until it becomes more domestic, 
the damage to cultivated fruit is likely to be small. 

Grain amounts to 5 percent, and was found in 15 stomachs, dis- 
tributed as follows: Wheat in 7, oats in 9, and barley in 1. Much of 
the wheat was damaged, and, in fact, owing to the times of year, it 
could not have been otherwise. The greatest amount of grain was 
taken in June, 24 percent, and was probably picked up in the harvest 
field. Many of the oats, perhaps all, were of the wild variety. The 
chief food of this jay, however, is acorns, though occasionally it eats 
other nuts or large seeds. Mast amounts to 42.5 percent of the yearly 
diet, and was found in 38 stomachs. In some of them it reached 99 
percent of the contents. In October and November it amounted to 
76 percent, in December to 90, and in January to 99 percent. Even 
in June, when other food was abundant, it was eaten to the extent 
of nearly 10 percent, though none was found in the stomachs taken 
in May or July. Very likely a considerable part of this was stolen 
from the stores of the California woodpecker, for it is hardly probable 
that the jays find acorns under the trees so late as June and so early 
as August. It is true the jays themselves store up nuts to some 
extent, but hardly on the scale indicated by the contents of their 
stomachs when the acorn harvest is long past. Seeds, galls, and 
miscellaneous matter make up the remainder of the vegetable food, 
about 2.5 percent. In two stomachs taken near the ocean were tan- 
gles of confervse and other seaweeds. 


From the foregoing analysis it will be seen that the food of the 
Steller jay is of minor importance from an economic point of view. 
In destroying beetles and Hymenoptera it performs some service, 
but it destroys only a few. Of the order of Hemiptera, which con- 
tains most of the worst pests of the orchardist and farmer, it eats 
scarcely any. The Orthoptera, which are almost all harmful insects, 
are eaten only sparingly, and the same applies to the rest of the 
insect food. The destruction of birds' eggs is the worst count against 
the jay. But none were found, except in June, until September, when 
it was too late in the season for fresh eggs to be obtainable. In June 
17 birds were taken, and 6 of them, or 35 percent of the whole, appar- 
ently had robbed birds' nests. Now, it is evident that if 35 percent 
of all the Steller jays in California each rob one bird's nest every day 
during the month of June the aggregate loss is very great. 

So far as its vegetable food is concerned, this bird does little dam- 
age. It is too shy to visit the more cultivated districts, and probably 
will never take enough fruit or grain to become of economic impor- 
tance. The other vegetable food it consumes is entirely neutral from 
the economic standpoint. 
38301— Bull. 34—10 4 



(Aphelocoma californica.) 

The California jay (PL III) occupies the warm chaparral-covered 
lower slopes of the Sierra Nevada and Coast ranges and adjacent val- 
leys. He has the same general traits of character as the eastern jay, 
is the same noisy, rollicking fellow as that bird, and in California 
occupies a corresponding position in bird society. While for the most 
part a frequenter of woods and chaparral, he is by no means shy of 
visiting orchards and gardens, and will come even to the farm 
buildings if anything there interests him. A nest of the chipping 
sparrow (Spizella passerina arizonse), which was being watched for 
notes on feeding, was robbed of its four nestlings early one morning 
by a jay, although not more than 30 feet from the front door of a 
house on the edge of the village. He is a persistent spy upon domes- 
tic fowls and well knows the meaning of the cackle of a hen. A 
woman whose home was at the mouth of a small ravine told the 
writer that one of her hens had a nest under a bush a short distance 
up the ravine from the cottage. A jay had found this out, and every 
day when the hen went on her nest the j ay would perch on a near-by 
tree. As soon as the cackle of the hen was heard, both woman and 
bird rushed to get the egg, but many times the jay reached the nest 
first and secured the prize. A man living in the thickly settled out- 
skirts of a town said that jays came every morning and perched on 
some large trees that overhung his barnyards, where the hens had 
their nests, and that it was necessary for some member of the family 
to be on the lookout and start at the first sound of the hen's voice or 
a jay would get the egg. 

A still worse trait of the jay was described by a young man en- 
gaged in raising poultry on a ranch far up a canyon near wooded 
hills. When his white leghorn chicks were small, the jays would 
attack and kill them by a few blows of the beak, and then peck 
open the skull and eat the brains. In spite of all endeavors to 
protect the chicks and to shoot the jays, his losses were serious. 

As a fruit-eater the jay has few equals. He has a pronounced 
taste for cherries and prunes, and where orchards of these fruits are 
near natural coverts, he will work unceasingly to carry off the fruit. 
The writer remained in a cherry orchard in such a situation from 9 
a. m. to 4 p. m. on several occasions during the cherry season, and 
there was not an hour of that time that jays were not going away 
with fruit and coming for more, in spite of the fact that every one 
was shot that was unwary enough to give the collector a chance. 
A small prune orchard on some bottomland, just where a small 
ravine debouched from the wooded hills, was also watched. The 
fruit was just ripening, and a continuous line of jays was seen pass- 

Bull. 34, Biological Survey, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture. 

Plate III 

California Jay 


ing from the hills down through the ravine to the orchard, while a 
return line, each jay bearing a prune, was flying up the ravine to the 
woods, where, probably, the fruit was secreted and left to rot. The 
jay habitually stores nuts and grain for future use, and no doubt, 
urged by a misdirected instinct, lays up fruit for the same purpose, 
but with a different result. Several hours later the jays were still 
at work. On another occasion 7 jays were shot successively from 
a prune tree loaded with fruit, and others continued to come, unter- 
rified by the report of the gun or the dead bodies of their comrades 
that lay on the ground beneath the tree. 

The jay is also a notorious pilferer of nuts, notably almonds and 
English walnuts. He is a skillful nutcracker, and extracts the ker- 
nel deftly by holding the nut between his feet on a branch, while he 
hammers it with his beak until he cracks the shell. Only the hard- 
est nuts defy his powers. A gentleman who owned a large ranch 
situated in a canyon and on the surrounding hills planted a dozen 
or more almond trees to raise nuts for home use. When the trees 
came to bearing, the jays each year carried all the nuts away before they 
were ripe. "Although," said the owner, "the trees bear a fair crop, 
I never get a nut; the jays take them all." Another gentleman 
had a number of very large English walnut trees on his ranch, which 
was at the upper end of a TOoded canyon. While these nuts were 
yet unripe, the jays destroyed a great many. Fortunately, when 
mature, they seem to be too hard for the jays to peck through, so 
the bulk of the crop was saved. 

But the jays do not frequent orchards entirely for fruit. During 
May and June the writer many times visited an apple orchard, the 
leaves of which were badly infested with a small green caterpillar, 
locally known as the canker worm. When a branch is jarred, 
these insects let themselves down to the ground on a thread spun 
for the purpose. Many jays were seen to fly into the orchard, alight 
in a tree, and then almost immediately drop to the ground. Obser- 
vation showed that the caterpillars, disturbed by the shfcck of the 
bird's alighting on a branch, dropped, and that the birds immedi- 
ately followed and gathered them in. These caterpillars were found 
in the stomachs of several jays, in one case to the extent of 90 percent 
of the contents. 

For the laboratory investigation of the food of the California jay, 
326 stomachs were used. They were distributed through every 
month, but the greater number were taken from May to September, 
inclusive. As many of them as possible were collected about orchards, 
gardens, ranch buildings, and stock yards. In the first analysis the 
food divides into 27 percent of animal matter and 73 percent of 
vegetable. The greatest percentage of animal food occurs in April, 
when it reaches 70 percent. After that it decreases gradually to 


January, when it falls to its minimum of a little less-than 5 percent. 
Vegetable food, on the contrary, is most sparingly eaten in April and 
most abundantly in January. 

Animal food. — As the jay is largely a ground feeder, careful ac- 
count was kept of the predaceous ground beetles (Carabidse). In 
May they amount to 10 percent of the food and to nearly as much 
in February; but in the other months they are insignificant. The 
total for the year is 2.5 percent. Other beetles, all either harmful 
or neutral, amount to a little more than 8 percent. They are eaten 
rather irregularly through the year. April shows the greatest con- 
sumption, nearly 31 percent, and January the least, only a trace. 

Hymenoptera, in the shape of wasps, bees, and ants, amount to a 
little less than 5 percent. They were contained in 189 stomachs 
and were distributed as follows: Honey bees in 9, ants in 27, other 
Hymenoptera in 159. These figures illustrate the fact that a bird 
will eat a certain article of food very often, but in small quantities. 
While Hymenoptera amount to less than 5 percent of the food, they 
were found in nearly 58 percent of the stomachs. The honey bees, 
20 in number, were found in 9 stomachs, and, what is very singular, 
all were workers. Birds that eat honey bees usually select the 
drones, but the jay appears to have chosen the workers. Fortu- 
nately he does not appear to eat man^ 

Hemiptera were eaten to the extent of less than one-half of 1 per- 
cent. One stomach contained 2 black olive scales (Saissetia olese). 
Diptera seem even less acceptable than bugs as an article of food. 
In July, the month of greatest consumption, there were less than 1 

Lepidoptera (moths and caterpillars) amount to 2.5 percent. They 
were eaten in every month, mainly in the caterpillar stage. May was 
the month when the greatest number was eaten, nearly 10 percent. 
The most interesting point, however, in connection with this item of 
food is that 12 pupse of the codling moth were found distributed 
through 8* stomachs. This is a most unexpected service from a bird 
of the jay's habits, and it may be said that a little work of this kind 
will cover a multitude of sins in other directions. 

Orthoptera (grasshoppers and crickets) are eaten to the extent 
of 4.5 percent. Most of them were taken in July, August, and Sep- 
tember. As usual, August stands first, with a consumption of nearly 
17 percent, and one stomach contained the remains of 41 individuals. 
Melanoplus devastator was the only species identified. As the jay is, 
to a great extent, an inhabitant of the woods, it was natural that its 
stomach should contain quite a number of the brown wood cricket. 
A mole cricket also was found in one stomach. Orthoptera were 
found in 151 stomachs and formed the total food in one. When they 


are eaten so often, it is surprising that they do not form a larger 
percentage of the food. 

A few miscellaneous creatures, such as raphidians, spiders, snails, 
etc., form less than one-half of 1 percent of the food. 

The following is a list of insects identified in the stomachs of the 
California jay: 


Amara conflata. Diabrotica sp. 

Silpha ramosa. Coniontis robusta. 

Limonius fulvipes . Blapstinus rufipes. 

Perothops witticki. Sciopithes obscurus. 

Onthophagus sp. Balaninus sp. 


Sinea diadema. Saissetia olese. 



Carpocapsa pomonella. 


Melanoplus devastator. 

Besides the insects and other invertebrates already discussed, the 
jay eats some vertebrates. The remains consisted of bones or feathers 
of birds in 8 stomachs, eggshells in 38, bones of small mammals 
(mice and shrews) in 11, and bones of reptiles and batrachians in 13 
stomachs. In destroying small mammals the jay is conferring an 
unmixed good, as practically all of them are injurious. His appetite 
for reptiles and batrachians, however, is unfortunate. These crea- 
tures, being mostly insectivorous, are very useful. Probably, how- 
ever, their ranks are not seriously thinned by the jay. Of those eaten, 
9 were lizards, one a snake, one a frog, and 2 others were batrachians, 
but could not be further identified. The great interest in the jay's 
vertebrate food, however, centers about the remains of birds and 
eggs. Of the 46 stomachs containing these remains, 17 were taken 
between the middle of May and the middle of July, and, as this period 
practically covers the nesting season in California, all may be con- 
sidered as from the nests of wild birds robbed by the jay. The others 
represent either the eggs of domestic fowls or old eggshells. In the 
above period 95 stomachs were collected, of which 17, or 18 percent, 
contained eggs or remains of young birds. If we may infer, as seems 
reasonable, that 18 percent of the California jays rob birds' nests 
every day during the nesting season, then we must admit that the 
jays are a tremendous factor in preventing the increase of our com- 
mon birds. Mr. Joseph Grinell, of Pasadena, after careful observa- 
tion, estimates the number of this species in California at about 



126,000. This is probably a low estimate. If 18 percent of this 
number, or 22,680 ja}^s, each robs a nest of eggs or young daily for a 
period of sixty days from the middle of May to the middle of July, the 
total number of nests destroyed in California by this one species every 
year is 1 ,360,800. These figures are somewhat startling, representing 
as they do an enormous number of useful birds, and it is to be hoped 
they exaggerate the damage. For the present, however, they must 
stand for what they are worth. More data are necessary in order to 
determine fully the accuracy of the figures. Little weight attaches 
to the destruction of the eggs of domestic fowls by this jay, since in 
most cases it is easily preventable. 

Vegetable food. — Aside from a few miscellaneous items, that alto- 
gether amount to less than 1 percent, the jay's vegetable food may be 
classed under three heads: Grain, fruit, and mast. Owing to the 
economic importance of this food the full tabulation is given below: 




(acorns) . 




(acorns) . 

_ January 





























It will be seen that March holds the highest record for grain. This 
was probably picked up from fields newly sown. After that, not 
much is eaten until June, when the harvest begins. From that time 
on, grain is an important article of diet, and is obtained by gleaning in 
the harvested fields. It makes a sudden drop at the end of Septem- 
ber, for at that time the acorn crop comes in. Grain was found in 
95 stomachs, of which 56 contained oats; 34, corn; 2, wheat; 2, 
barley; and 1, grain not further identified. Many of the oats were 
of the wild variety. 

Fruit was found in 270 stomachs. Of these, cherries were identi- 
fied in 37, prunes in 25, apples in 5, grapes in 2, pears in 2, peaches 
in 1, gooseberries in 2, figs in 1, blackberries or raspberries in 71, 
elderberries in 42, manzanita in 4, cascara in 1, mistletoe in 1, and 
fruit pulp not further identified in 76. It will be noted that most 
of the fruit was eaten in the five months from May to September, 
inclusive. All found in November, December, and January was 
fruit pulp without seeds, evidently old fruit left on the trees. All 
the small fruits, as raspberries and elderberries, were taken during 
the summer months. The raspberries may have been either wild 
or cultivated, and were probably both; but in any case it is safe to 
say that half of the fruit eaten was of wild varieties and of no eco- 
nomic value. 


Mast forms the largest item of the jay's food. This fact has some 
economic interest, since mast possesses considerable value as food 
for stock, especially hogs. A glance at the table will show the high 
percentages for the eight months from September to April inclusive, 
and then the sudden drop to the low rank it holds for the rest of the 
year. While the average consumption for the year is 38 percent, 
for these eight months alone it rises to nearly 57 percent, or more 
than half of the whole food. Doctor Merriam says that by the 
Indians this jay is called the oak planter. There is no doubt that 
all jays unconsciously aid in planting forest trees. Like the Cali- 
fornia woodpecker they habitually store up nuts and other large 
seeds, though unlike that bird they do not prepare storage places, 
but place them in forks of trees, cracks in old stumps or logs, behind 
loose pieces of bark, or bury them in the ground. Nuts are often 
dropped when being carried to a place of concealment, and sprout 
and grow to renew the forest. 


The insect food, though small in amount, may be set down to the 
jay's credit. By the destruction of birds' eggs and young, it does 
serious mischief. Two items of its vegetable food, grain and fruit, 
are against the jay. In the, case of grain, however, it is doubtful if 
much damage is done, since it is taken mostly after the harvest. If 
the grain taken in early spring is stolen from newly sown fields, it 
represents a real loss; but the jay is not known to pull up grain 
after it has sprouted, so that all it gets at this time must have been 
left uncovered, and is therefore of minor importance. After harvest 
it is common to see small companies of jays in fields, where they 
probably glean scattered kernels as well as some insects. In the 
matter of fruit stealing there are no extenuating circumstances. 
Wherever orchards are near its haunts, the jay is a persistent and 
insatiable fruit thief. If he took only what is necessary to satisfy 
the appetites of himself and family, he might be endured for the sake 
of his better traits. But long after his hunger is appeased, he con- 
tinues to carry off fruit to store away, and thus his pilferings are 
limited only by his numbers and by the size of the fruit crop. More- 
over, much of the fruit which he pecks is left on the tree to rot, and 
more falls to the ground unfit for use, except by pigs. It is fortu- 
nate that only orchards situated near the jay's usual haunts suffer 
severely. Those farther away are visited occasionally, but are not 
seriously damaged. Unlike many other birds which prey upon the 
earlier fruits, the jay continues his depredations as long as fruit is 
to be had. In an orchard closely watched by the writer it was 
found that when the earlier cherries were ripening, blackbirds, 
thrushes, orioles, grosbeaks, cedar birds, and linnets, as well as jays, 


were present in numbers, but two weeks later, when the earlier 
varieties were gone and the later ones were ripe, hardly any smaller 
birds were present, while the jays were as busy as ever; and still 
later, at the end of the season, when the prune crop came on, jays 
were still taking a heavy toll. 

It will thus be seen that the jay has many more bad qualities 
than good. In fact, from the economic point of view he has few 
redeeming virtues. Something may be said in his favor from the 
esthetic side, as he is a handsome bird, and people interested in 
country life would no doubt miss his familiar presence. But as the 
case stands there are far too many California jays. If they could 
be reduced to a fourth or a half of their present numbers, the remain- 
der would probably do no serious harm. This is exactly what is 
likely to take place gradually as the State becomes more thickly 
settled and forest and chaparral lands decrease. 



The family which includes the orioles, blackbirds, and meadow- 
larks embraces species widely different in form, plumage, nesting 
habits, and food. The orioles nest in trees and obtain the greater 
part of their food thereon. The blackbirds nest upon low trees, 
bushes, or reeds, and take their food from trees to some extent, but 
mostly from the ground. The meadowlarks, the most terrestrial 
of all, nest upon the ground and obtain nearly all of their food there. 
Orioles eat the greatest percentage of insects, the meadowlarks eat 
a little less, while the blackbirds eat the least. Blackbirds rank 
next to sparrows as eaters of weed seeds, especially in winter. 

Besides the Brewer blackbird there are in California 5 species 
and subspecies of redwinged blackbirds, which are so much alike 
that most of them can be distinguished only by ornithologists. 
All have practically the same nesting habits, and their food is not 
essentially different. 


(Agelaius gubernator calif ornicus .) 

The bicolored redwing is distributed locally over a large part of 
California, but owing to its peculiar habit of building its nest 
directly over water, the areas it occupies are restricted. Flooded 
marshes and ponds overgrown with bulrushes or tules are much 
to its taste, affording abundant nesting sites. Such places are 
common in California and many are of large extent — as those on 
Suisun Bay and in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys. Among 


these the bicolored redwing and his redwinged relatives find con- 
genial quarters. 

For the laboratory investigation of the food of this species, 198 
stomachs were available. They were collected in every month 
of the year, and probably give a fair idea of the bird's food. It 
was found to consist of 14 percent of animal matter to 86 of vege- 
table. The animal food is practically all insects, and the vegetable 
either grain or weed seed. 

Animal food. — Most of the animal food was taken in May, June, 
and July. May stomachs showed the maximum of nearly 91 per- 
cent. There is a sudden rise in the amount from April to May and 
a sudden fall from July to August. The insects composing this 
part of the food were distributed among several of the most com- 
mon orders, but none of them appear to be specially sought after. 
Beetles aggregate about 5 percent. A few were predaceous ground 
beetles, but the most were either leaf beetles (Chrysomelidoe) or 
weevils. Hymenoptera, in the shape of wasps and ants, were taken 
very sparingly in the four months from May to August inclusive, and 
amount to about one-fourth of 1 percent for the year. Bugs were 
eaten during the six warmer months, and for the year aggregate 
just 1 percent. Grasshoppers constitute over 15 percent of the 
food in July. They are a fraction of 1 percent for the other months 
and average 1 .5 percent for the year. 

Caterpillars aggregate 5.5 percent, the highest of any item of 
animal food. In May they amount to over 45 percent of the food 
of that month, which is more than for all the other months together. 
Probably they are fed largely to the nestlings, as a few taken in 
May had eaten a large percentage of these insects. It is worthy of 
special notice that the caterpillar known in the cotton-raising States 
as the cotton bollworm, and elsewhere as the corn-ear worm, Helio'Ms 
obsoleta, was found in 7 stomachs. This is certainly to the credit of 
the bird, aiid it may be that its visits to cornfields are for this insect 
primarily, and that corn is taken only incidentally. A few miscel- 
laneous insects amount to less than 1 percent and complete the 
animal portion of the diet. 

The following are the insects identified in stomachs of the bicolored 
redwing : 


Elaphrus ruscarius. Systena ochracea. 

Gastroidea cyanea csesia. Notoxus alamedx. 

Chsetocnema minuta. Apocrypha dyschirioides. 


Heliothis obsoleta. 


Vegetable food.— Two prominent constituents make up the vege- 
table food of the redwing — grain and weed seed. Grain amounts 
to 70 and weed seed to 15 percent. The grain consists of corn, 
wheat, oats, and barley. Oats are the favorite. They amount to 
over 47 percent of the yearly food, and were eaten in every month 
except February, when they were replaced by barley. The month 
of maximum consumption was December, when nearly 72 percent 
was eaten, but several other months were nearly as high. Wheat 
stands next to oats in the quantity eaten, nearly 13 percent. It is 
taken quite regularly in every month except March and May. Bar- 
ley was found only in stomachs taken in February, October, and 
November, and nearly all of it was taken in February. The aver- 
age for the year is 5.5 percent. Corn is eaten still less than barley, 
and nearly all was consumed in September, when it reached nearly 
46 percent of the month's food. A little was eaten in May, August, 
and October, but the aggregate for the year is only slightly more than 
4 percent. 

Weed seed amounts to 15 percent of the food of the bicolored red- 
wing. It is eaten in every month except May, when it gives way 
to animal food. The following species were identified: 

Sunflower (Helianthus sp.). Chickweed (Stellaria media). 

Tarweed ( Madia sativa) . Catchfl y (Silene sp . ) . 

Bur clover (Medicago denticulatum) . Smartweed {Polygonum). 

Alfilaria (Erodium cicutarium). Sorrel (Rumex sp.). 

Red maids (Calandrinia menziesi). Canary seed (Phalaris caroliniana) . 

Pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus). Sedge (Carex sp.). 

These seeds were eaten very regularly throughout the year. The 
greatest consumption is in March, 35 percent, but as the record for 
several other months does not fall much below, probably this has 
no special significance. All of the above weeds are more or less of a 
nuisance, though at times some of them may be used as forage plants. 
Fruit is not eaten by the bicolored redwing. 

Food of young. — Among the stomachs of the bicolored redwing 
were 11 of nestlings varying in age from 4 days to 2 weeks. 
The food was made up of 99 percent of animal matter and 1 percent 
of vegetable, though most of the latter was mere rubbish, no doubt 
accidental. Caterpillars were the largest item, and amounted to an 
average of 45 percent. Beetles, many of them in the larval state, 
stood next, with 32 percent. Hemiptera, especially stinkbugs and 
leaf hoppers, amounted to 19 percent. A few miscellaneous insects and 
spiders made up the other 3 percent. It will be noted that the food 
of the young is practically all animal and that a preponderance of 
caterpillars and beetle larvae makes it softer than that of the adults. 



In summing up the facts relating to the food of the bicolored 
redwing, the most prominent point is the great percentage of grain. 
Evidently if this bird were abundant in a grain-raising country it 
would be a menace to the crop. But no complaints of the bird's 
depredations on grain have been made, and it is significant that the 
grain consumed is not taken at or just before the harvest, but is a 
constant element of every month's food. As the favorite grain is 
oats, which grows wild in great abundance, it must be admitted 
that, with all its possibilities for mischief, the bird at present is 
doing very little damage. So far as its insect food goes, it does 
no appreciable harm and much good. Its consumption of weed seed 
is a positive benefit. Like the other redwings, it has interesting 
habits and a pleasant song, and for the present, at least, should be 


In addition to the stomachs of the bicolored redwing, a few of 
2 other species of redwings have been examined. They comprise 
16 stomachs of the tricolored redwing (Agelaius tricolor), and 12 of 
the western redwing (some form of A. phceniceus) . From the exami- 
nation of so small a number, final data on the food can not be obtained, 
but so far as the testimony goes, it indicates that both species consume 
more insects and less grain than the bicolored. The stomachs of 
the tricolored contain 79 percent of animal matter to 21 of vegetable. 
The animal matter consists mostly of beetles and caterpillars, with 
a decided preponderance of caterpillars. The vegetable food is 
nearly all weed seed. One stomach alone contained barley. * 

In the case of the western redwings, the animal food amounted 
to 63 percent to 37 of vegetable. The former was pretty evenly 
distributed among beetles, grasshoppers, and Lepidoptera (moths and 
caterpillars), and contained in addition a few aquatic insects. The 
vegetable food was largely weed seed. A little barley was found in 
one stomach, and one was filled with oats. 

It is evident from the foregoing that the beneficial greatly out- 
weigh the injurious elements in the food of these redwings. 


(Euphagus cyanocephalus.) 

The Brewer blackbird (PL IV) occurs over most of the cultivated 
districts of California. By choice it is a resident of fields, meadows, 
orchards, and about ranch buildings and cultivated lands generally. 
It takes the place on the Pacific coast occupied by the crow blackbird 
(Quiscalus quiscula and seneus) in the Mississippi Valley and farther 


east, and is so similar in appearance and habits that the eastern 
observer in California forgets that it is not the same species. It 
nests in bushes, weeds, and sometimes in trees, and is so gregarious 
that several nests are often built in the same vicinity. Large colonies 
frequently establish themselves near farm buildings, and feed freely 
in the stock yards and cultivated fields. When fruit is ripe these 
blackbirds do not hesitate to take a share, and they visit the orchard 
daily for the early cherries. 

They claim a share of grain also, but do not appear to eat it at 
harvest time so much as afterwards. Mr. Walter K. Fisher, writing 
from Stockton, Calif., on November 12, 1897, reports them as feeding 
on newly sown wheat that had not been harrowed in, eating nearly 
all thus left exposed. He describes the birds as in such immense 
flocks in the grain fields that at a distance they looked like smoke 
rising from the ground, and says that stomachs of birds taken were 
full of wheat. On the other hand, Prof. A. J. Cook, of Claremont, 
Calif., says that he considered it one of the most valuable species 
in the State; and Mr. J. F. Illingsworth, of Ontario, Calif., in a paper 
read before the Pomona Farmers' Club, a speaks of it as a beneficial 
bird, which should be protected. Mr. O. E. Bremner, State horti- 
cultural inspector, in a letter to the Biological Survey, says: 

The cankerworm episode is quite a common one with us here. In one district, 
Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, there has been a threatened invasion of the 
prune trees by spring cankerworms several times, but each time the blackbirds came 
to the rescue and completely cleaned them out. I have often seen bands of black- 
birds working in an infested orchard. They work from tree to tree, clearing them 
out as they go. If a worm tries to escape by webbing down, they will dive down and 
catch him in mid-air. 

During the cherry season the writer observed these birds in the 
orchards, and collected a number of them. They were seen to eat 
freely of cherries, and the stomachs of those taken showed that a 
goodly proportion of the food consisted of cherry pulp. While these 
observations were being made, a neighboring fruit raiser began to 
plow his orchard. Almost immediately every blackbird in the vicin- 
ity was upon the newly opened ground, and many followed within 
a few feet of the plowman's heels in their eagerness to get every 
grub or other insect turned out by the plow. On another occasion , 
an orchard was being watched while the far side was being plowed. 
A continual flight of blackbirds was passing in both directions over 
the observer's head, and practically all of them alighted on the newly 
plowed ground, fed there for a while, and then returned, probably 
to their nests. When plowing was finished and harrowing began, 
the blackbirds immediately changed their foraging ground, and fol- 
lowed the harrow as closely as they had accompanied the plow. 

a Ontario Observer, June 3, 1899. 

Bull. 34, Biological Survey, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture. 

Plate IV 


In the laboratory investigation of this bird's food 312 stomachs 
were available. They were collected in every month in the year, 
and represent fairly the fruit and grain growing sections of the State 
from Santa Rosa southward. Many were taken in orchards and 
gardens when in the act of pilfering fruit or other products of hus- 
bandry. Besides adults, 29 nestlings of various ages are represented. 
The first analysis of the stomach contents gives 32 percent of animal 
matter to 68 of vegetable. The animal food consists of insects, spi- 
ders, sow bugs, snails, and eggshells. 

Animal food. — The animal food attains its maximum in April, 
when it reaches 82 percent. From that time it slowly decreases 
until December, when it is only 5 percent, and then rises toward its 
maximum. The increase is very sudden from March to April. Bee- 
tles constitute over 11 percent of the food, and of these 2.5 percent 
are predatory ground beetles (Carabidse). April is the month of 
greatest consumption of beetles, 29 percent, but no carabids are 
eaten in this month. In June 22.5 percent of beetles are eaten, of 
which 12 percent are carabids. The amounts eaten in other months 
are insignificant. The great bulk of the beetles eaten are the dark- 
ling beetles (Tenebrionidse), which have much the same habit of 
living on the ground as the carabids, and are probably more abun- 
dant in California. One stomach was entirely filled with them. A 
few click beetles (Elateridas) and some weevils were also eaten. 

Hymenoptera (wasps, bees, and ants) were eaten to the extent of 
1.7 percent of the food. Evidently blackbirds are too slow to catch 
often such agile creatures as wasps and bees. Hymenoptera were 
eaten in every month from March to November, inclusive. In June 
they amount to something over 7 percent, which is the maximum. 

Bugs (Hemiptera) of various kinds are eaten from April to Novem- 
ber to a small extent. They aggregate somewhat more than 1 per- 
cent for the year. In the month of greatest consumption, June, 
they reach only 5.5 percent. They belong mostly to the families of 
stinkbugs (Pentatomidse) and shield bugs (Scutelleridse). A black 
olive scale was found in one stomach. Flies (Diptera) were eaten 
to a slight extent from April to July inclusive, with a trace in Octo- 
ber. The total for the year is only a little more than 1.5 percent. 
Like bees and wasps, flies are probably too quick to be easily caught. 

Caterpillars and pupae (Lepidoptera) reach the highest percentage 
of any item of animal food. They amount to nearly 12 percent, and 
are eaten in every month. April is the month when most are taken, 
over 38 percent, and the record for May stands nearly as high. They 
belong largely to the owlet moths (Noctuidae), which comprise many 
of those pests generally known as cutworms. The cotton bollworm, 
or corn-ear worm {Heliothis obsolete), was identified in 10 stomachs, 
and was probably contained in many more, but in a condition that 


baffled recognition. The most interesting Lepidoptera were the 
pupae of the codling moth, found in 11 stomachs, 4 of which belonged 
to adults, while the other 7 were from nestlings, whose food will be 
discussed farther on. An orchardist told the writer that at one time 
his trees became infested with cankerworms, which swarmed all over 
the orchard and were rapidly destroying the leaves, when the black- 
birds came in great numbers from all quarters and fed upon the 
worms until they were practically exterminated. 

Grasshoppers and crickets were taken from April to November, 
inclusive, and amount for the whole year to 3.5 percent of the diet. 
In June they constitute over 15 percent of the food of that month, 
but only a moderate percentage was eaten in the other months. It 
is rather remarkable that birds which feed so much on the ground 
should eat so few of these insects, but this species appears to be 
mainly a vegetable eater, and to get the larger part of its animal 
food in April, just at its reproductive season, before grasshoppers 
are abundant. 

Following is a list of insects identified in the stomachs of the 
Brewer blackbird: 


Trisena scitula. Diabrotica soror. 

Trixna longula. Diachus auratus. 

Brady cellus rwpestris. Gastroidea sp. 

Scymnus lacustris. Blapstinus pulverulentus . 

Dermestes mannerheimi. Blapstinus rujipes. 

Saprinus obscurus. Apocrypha dyschirioides. 

Anchastus cinereipennis. Anthicus punctulatus. 

Aphodius rugifrons. Sitones sp. 
Aphodius granarius. 


Saissetia olese. 


Helioihis obsoleta. Carpocapsa pomonella. 

Vegetable food. — The vegetable food reaches its maximum of 95 
percent in December, when animal food is least plentiful. It may be 
divided into frifit, grain, and weed seed. Fruit was eaten in May, 
June, and July, not a trace appearing in any other month. It was 
found in 63 stomachs, of which 37 contained cherries (or what was 
thought to be such); 2, strawberries; 3, blackberries or raspberries; 
and 21, fruit pulp or skins not further identified. The percentages 
for each month were 14 for May, 22 for June, and 15 for July, an 
average of 17 percent for each of the three months, or of a little more 
than 4 percent for the whole year. This certainly is not a bad 
showing, and if the bird does no greater harm than is involved in its 
fruit eating, it is well worth protecting. 


Grain constitutes 54 percent of the yearly food of the Brewer 
blackbird. It is eaten in every month, and forms a respectable 
percentage in each. The greatest amount is taken in December, 
93 percent, and the least in April, 4 percent. Oats are the favorite 
grain. They amount to nearly 46 percent, and were found in 157 
stomachs. Wheat amounts to nearly 3 percent, and was contained 
in 11 stomachs. Corn ranks next as to quantity eaten, less than 2 
percent, but it was found in 1? stomachs. Barley occurred in only 
5 stomachs, but amounted to a little more than 2 percent. Only 
1 stomach held rye, but it amounted to more than 1 percent, for 
the stomach was nearly filled with it. Oats were the sole contents 
of 14 stomachs and wheat of 2. No stomach was completely filled 
with any other grain. Oats are evidently the favorite grain, 
whether we judge by the percentage eaten or by the number of 
stomachs containing them. Many of these were wild oats and of 
little economic value. 

Weed seed amounts to nearly 9 percent of the food, and, while not 
consumed in large quantities, is eaten to some extent in every month. 
The greatest amount is taken in March, 26 percent. October comes 
next, with nearly 16 percent. The least is eaten in December and 
January, when grain is at its highest point. But little weed seed is 
eaten in May and June, when cherries demand attention. W T eed 
seed was found in 134 stomachs, but in rather small quantities in 
each. No stomach was completely filled with it. It seems to be 
taken, moreover, rather irregularly, as though it were merely a 
makeshift. A few other odd items, mostly rubbish, amount to less 
than 1 percent, and complete the quota of vegetable food. 

Seeds of the following uncultivated plants were identified: 

Lesser tarweed (Hemizonia fasciculata) . Spurry (Spergula arvensis). 

Tarweed {Madia sativa). Chickweed (Stellaria media). 

Bur thistle (Centaurea melitensis). Catchfly (Silene sp.). 

Alfilaria (Erodium cicutarium). Knotweed (Polygonums^.). 

Black mustard (Brassica nigra). Brome grass (Bromus sp.). 

Miners' lettuce (Montia perfoliata). Wild oats (Avena fatua) . 

Red maids (Calandrinia menziesi). Monterey pine (Pinus radiata). 
Pigweed (Amaranthus retrofiexus). 

Food of young. — Among the stomachs examined were those of 29 
nestlings, varying in age from twenty-four hours to some that were 
nearly fledged. Taken altogether, the stomachs contained 89 
percent of animal matter to 11 of vegetable. Over 74 percent of 
all was composed of caterpillars, grasshoppers, and spiders. Beetles 
in general amount to 6 percent of the food, or a little more than half 
the quantity eaten by the adults. Very singularly, however, 4.5 
percent of these are carabids, or predatory ground beetles, nearly 
twice as many as are taken by the parent birds, although soft food 
is usually preferred for feeding nestlings. Caterpillars, with a few 


adult moths arid some pupae, aggregate 33 percent, which is three 
times as many as were eaten by the old birds. They were found in 
22 of the 29 stomachs. The most interesting part of this item is 15 
codling moth pupae that were contained in 7 stomachs. Four adult 
stomachs also contained one each of these pupae, but they seem to 
be mostly reserved as tidbits for the young. Grasshoppers and 
crickets were found in 21 stomachs, and aggregate 30 percent of the 
food, more than eight times as much as was eaten by the adults, so 
these insects also are evidently reserved for the nestlings. Spiders 
amount to 11 percent of the food of the young, although less than 1 
percent of the parents' food. Various other insects and a few snails 
make up the rest of the animal food. 

The vegetable food consists of fruit, grain, and rubbish. Fruit, 
probably cherries, was found in 4 stomachs of one brood. The 
average for each stomach was 43 percent. This was the oldest 
brood taken, and the birds were nearly ready to fly, which probably 
accounts for the large proportion of vegetable food. Oats, found in 
the stomach of one bird about a week old, amounted to about 45 
percent of the contents, and seemed unusual food for so young a 
bird. The other two of the same brood had grass and other rubbish 
in their stomachs. Rubbish is the best term to describe the vegeta- 
ble matter in most of these stomachs. The fruit and grain were all 
that should be called food. 

One can not fail to notice the very pronounced difference in diet 
between these nestlings and the adults. Not only is the animal 
food of the young greatly in excess, but it is practically made up of 
spiders, caterpillars, and grasshoppers. All of these are compara- 
tively soft-bodied creatures, and probably on that account are 
selected for the young. 


. In so far as its animal food is concerned, but little fault can be 
found with the Brewer blackbird. The insects eaten are fairly well 
distributed among the various orders, and include only a compara- 
tively small number that are useful. As to fruit, no more is eaten 
than may be considered a fair return for the destruction of insects. 
The weed seed eaten must be set down to the bird's credit. All 
question, then, in regard to its economic position must rest upon the 
grain it eats. Most of the grain is taken in the months from August 
to February, inclusive. The average amount consumed in those 
seven months is over 75 percent of the food, while the average for* 
the other five months is less than 24 percent, yet this last period 
covers the time from sowing to the end of harvest. As matters 
stand at present, probably the bird is doing no harm by eating grain, 
except perhaps under exceptional circumstances. It has a decided 


proclivity for oats, and if abundant would undoubtedly piove a 
menace to the crop. 


(Sturnella neglecta.) 

Throughout California wherever grassy uplands, fields, and 
meadows occur, there will be seen the western meadowlark. Low, 
rich meadows, verging to marsh, with water near by, form ideal condi- 
tions for this bird. Nor does it disdain fertile hillsides when not too 
high, and when covered by a thick coat of herbage. Only pro- 
fessional ornithologists take note of the plumage differences between 
the eastern and western species of the meadowlark, but the difference 
in song is evident to the dullest ear. Owing to the snow, meadowlarks 
in the northern and eastern parts of the United States must migrate 
in winter far enough south to find open ground, but in California 
valleys no such necessity exists; so the bird remains on the same 
range the year round, and carries on its good work of destroying 
insects and weeds. 

A few complaints have been made that meadowlarks in California 
eat the seeds of forage plants, notably clover, to an injurious extent. 
As most of the forage plants, including the introduced grasses of the 
Pacific coast lowlands, are annuals, the destruction of their seed 
would lessen the next season's feed and be a damage. Probably, 
however, such harm is done only under exceptional circumstances, 
for the stomachs show only a very small percentage of seed of forage 
plants and no clover seed. Another report is that the meadowlark 
does considerable damage to peas. The earliest fields are most 
visited by the birds, and small patches are sometimes almost com- 
pletely destroyed. The later crops are not so badly damaged, and 
in extensive areas the loss is hardly noticeable. All the reports of 
damage to peas thus far received are from southern California, and 
very likely the explanation lies in some peculiar local conditions. The 
birds evidently lose their taste for this kind of food before the season 
is over, and probably find something more palatable which is wanting 
at first. 

In some parts of the San Joaquin Valley the meadowlark has been 
accused, and probably with good reason, of pulling up sprouting grain 
in early spring. It is stated that the bird bores down beside the new 
plant and draws out the kernel. In many cases the amount of grain 
thus destroyed is said to be large. In one instance it was stated that 
the crop over a limited area was reduced 50 percent. The evidence, 
however, is conflicting, as some grain growers in the same localities 
are not aware of any loss. It thus seems probable that the damage 
to grain by the meadowlark is limited in extent and very local. 
38301— Bull. 34—10 5 


For the determination of the food of the meadowlark 91 stomachs 
were available, distributed throughout the year. The food consists 
of 70 percent of animal matter to 30 of vegetable. Broadly speaking, 
the animal matter is made up of insects and the vegetable of seeds. 

Animal food. — Beetles are the largest item of the animal part of 
the diet. They are evidently a favorite food, for they are eaten 
in every month, with a good percentage in nearly all of them. The 
amount for the year is almost 27 percent. Practically half of this 
consists of the predatory ground beetles (Carabidse). It is not sur- 
prising that the meadowlark should eat these beetles, for nearly all 
of them live on the ground, and walk and run much more than they 
fly; hence they are easily taken. As nearly all the species subsist 
largely upon other insects, their destruction must be considered as a 
flaw in this bird's record. All the other beetles eaten are harmful 
or neutral, and include a number of weevils. One stomach contained 
36 yucca weevils (RJiigopsis effracta). The greatest number of beetles 
appears to have been eaten in March, when they amount to 72 percent, 
but as only two stomachs were available for that month the record 
is unreliable. 

Wasps and ants (Hymenoptera) aggregate nearly 6 percent. 
They were eaten in every month but two, and ample material would 
undoubtedly show them in every month. Ants, being the more 
terrestrial, seem to be more natural food for the meadowlark than 
wasps or bees, but the bird gets a good share of both. Bugs (Hemip- 
tera) were eaten to the extent of a little more than 4 percent. 
Nearly all of them were stinkbugs (Pentatomidae) . They were not 
eaten very regularly, and several months were not represented. May 
was the month of greatest consumption, 27 percent, but this may have 
been accidental. 

Lepidoptera, largely caterpillars, aggregate about 15 percent. 
They were eaten in every month except August, when they were re- 
placed by grasshoppers. February is apparently the month of maxi- 
mum consumption, but a greater number of stomachs might prove 
differently. It is thought that many of these are of the kinds known 
as cutworms, though none were positively identified. All were un- 
doubtedly terrestrial species, for the meadowlark is not known to seek 
food anywhere but on the ground. 

Grasshoppers, when abundant, are usually eaten very freely by 
all ground feeding birds and by many arboreal species. The west- 
ern meadowlark eats them to the extent of something more than 
12 percent of its yearly food. This is a very small percentage for a 
bird of such terrestrial habits. The eastern form eats them to the 
extent of 29 percent, and in August the amount taken reaches 69 
percent of the food of that month. With the western species the 
consumption reaches 42 percent in August, which is the maximum 


for the year. In the East the grasshopper season is limited to five 
months at most, but in California these insects can always be found. 
This makes it all the more surprising that California meadowlarks 
do not eat them more freely, but it is noteworthy that nearly every 
species of terrestrial bird in the East eats a larger percentage of these 
insects than does the related species on the Pacific coast. The 
actual percentage of grasshoppers proper eaten by the western 
meadowlark is even less than the above figures indicate, for the record 
includes quite a number of crickets, both the black and the brown 
or wood crickets (Stenopelmatus) . One stomach contained 12 wood 
crickets. Crane flies (Tipulidse), spiders, sowbugs (Oniscus), and a 
few snails make up the rest of the animal food, nearly 6 percent. 
More than half of this item consists of the crane flies (daddy longlegs) 
found in one stomach taken in April, in which they amounted to 45 
percent of the stomach's contents. 

The following insects were identified in the stomachs of the western 


Calosoma externum. Eurymetopon cylindricum. 

Trisena longula. Blapstinus dilatatus. 

Silpha ramosa. Rhigopsis effracta. 

Dolopius lateralis. Sitones hispidulus. 
Taphrocerus gracilis. 


Stenopelmatus sp. 

Vegetable food. — The vegetable food of the western meadowlark 
may be arranged under three heads: Fruit, grain, and weed seed. 
In one stomach taken in November was found something which was 
doubtfully identified as fruit pulp, but no other stomach contained 
a trace of fruit, and this bird has rarely been accused of eating fruit. 

From August to March inclusive, grain is one of the most impor- 
tant articles of food. The average monthly consumption for the 
year is 27.5 percent, but for the eight months just indicated the 
average is 41 percent. In the other four months, that is, from April 
to July inclusive, which include the ripening and harvesting of the 
crop, no grain except a little corn was eaten. Grain of some kind 
was found in 60 of the 91 stomachs, and 4 were entirely filled with it. 
Corn is eaten only occasionally, and amounts to but 1 percent of the 
food. It was all taken in May and June. Wheat was eaten from 
October to January, inclusive. It amounts to over 11 percent for 
those months, but to less than 4 percent for the whole year. As is 
usual with grain eating birds, oats are the favorite kind. They were 
eaten from August to March inclusive, and average nearly 33 percent 
for those eight months, and for the year a little less than 22 percent. 
The greatest quantity, nearly 57 percent, was eaten in January, but 


nearly as much was taken in September. March, the month of seed- 
ing, shows the least, 10 percent. Barley was found in 6 stomachs 
taken in November, and amounts to less than 1 percent for the year. 
Weed seed forms only 2 percent of the yearly food of the western 
meadowlark. With the eastern bird it aggregates a little more than 
1 1 percent. It seems strange that a bird which obtains its food from 
the ground, and whose vegetable diet consists so largely of seeds, 
should neglect a food that furnishes sustenance to so many other 
species of birds. Weed seed was eaten so irregularly as to indicate 
that it was taken only as a makeshift. December was the month 
of greatest consumption, when it amounted to 15 percent. 


Three items of damage may be brought up against the meadow- 
lark. The first is the destruction of predaceous ground beetles 
(Carabidse), which amount to one-eighth of its food. This, however, 
constitutes but a small offense when we consider the number of cater- 
pillars and grasshoppers which the bird also destroys. The damage 
to peas, and grain when sprouting are undoubtedly real and in some cases 
serious, but the conflicting testimony in regard to these points indi- 
cates that this damage is due to local conditions, and it is probable 
that a careful study of the attendant circumstances will lead to a 

In some communities, especially in the South and West, where 
meadowlarks are most abundant, there is a tendency to include them 
among game birds. The tiny body of the meadowlark, however, has 
slight food value as compared with the value of the living bird to the 
agriculturist. While the western meadowlark can not be classed in 
the front rank of the proved friends of the farmer, its services are 
sufficiently real and important to earn protection wherever it is found. 


(Icterus bullocki.) 

Over most of the plains and valleys of California, where trees are 
available for nesting and foraging, the Bullock oriole (PL V.) is a com- 
mon summer visitant. In the West it takes the place occupied in the 
East by the Baltimore oriole. In food, nesting habits, and song the 
birds are similar. Both are migratory and remain on their summer 
range only about five or six months. They are rather domestic in 
habits, and take kindly to orchards, gardens, and the vicinity of 
farm buildings, and often live in villages and in the parks of large 
towns. Their diet is largely made up of insects that infest orchards 
and gardens. Their favorite foraging places are trees, where they 
may be seen examining every leaf in search of their customary food, 

Bull. 34, Biological Survey, U. S. Dept. of Agricultur 


Plate X 


Bullock Oriole 


caterpillars and other leaf -haunting insects. When fruit trees are in 
bloom they are constantly busy among the blossoms, and probably 
save many of them from destruction. 

For the investigation of the food of the Bullock oriole 162 stomachs 
were available. They were taken in the five months from April to 
August inclusive, and probably give a very fair idea of the food for 
those months. Analysis of the contents shows about 79 percent of 
animal matter to 21 of vegetable. 

Animal food. — The animal food consisted mainly of insects, with a 
few spiders, a lizard, a mollusk shell, and eggshells. Beetles amounted 
to 35 percent, and all except a few ladybugs (Coccinellida?) were 
harmful species. The coccinellids were found in 9 stomachs, but the 
percentage was insignificant. Many of the beetles were weevils, and 
quite a number belonged to the genus Balaninus, which lives upon 
acorns and other nuts. Ants were found in 19 stomachs, and 1 
contained nothing else. Hymenoptera other than ants were found 
in 56 stomachs, and entirely filled 2 of them. Including the ants, 
they amount to nearly 15 percent of the food of the season. The 
month of maximum consumption was April, when they reached over 
29 percent of the monthly food. 

One of the most interesting articles of food in the oriole's dietary is 
the black olive scale (Saissetia olese). This was found in 45 stomachs, 
and amounted to 5 percent of the food. In one stomach these scales 
formed 87 percent of the contents; in another, 82; and in each of 
two others, 81 percent. In one of these 30 individual scales could 
be counted. Scales were evidently a standard article of diet. They 
were eaten regularly in every month of the oriole's stay except April. 
Hemiptera other than scales are eaten quite regularly. They amount 
to a little more than 5 percent of the food. The month of greatest 
consumption was July, when they formed over 13 percent. They 
were mostly stinkbugs, leafhoppers, and tree hoppers. Plant lice 
(Aphididse) were found in one stomach. 

Lepidoptera, in the shape of moths, pupaB, and caterpillars, are the 
largest item of the oriole's animal food. April, the month of the 
bird's arrival from the South, is the month of greatest consumption, 
nearly 63 percent. The month when the fewest are taken is July, 
not quite 8 percent. This also is the month when the Baltimore 
oriole eats the fewest caterpillars. For the Bullock oriole the average 
consumption during its summer stay is a little more than 41 percent 
against 34 percent by the Baltimore. Perhaps the most interesting 
point in connection with the Lepidoptera is the eating of the pupse 
and larvae of the codling moth (Carpocapsa pomonella). These were 
found in 23 stomachs, which shows that they are not an unusual 
article of diet. No less than 14 of the pupa cases were found in one 
stomach, and as they are very fragile, many others may have been 


present, but broken up beyond recognition. It is curious that the 
oriole should find these insects. During the greater part of their 
larval life they are concealed within the apple. When ready to 
pupate they crawl out and at once seek some place of concealment, 
such as a crevice in bark or among clods or rubbish, where they can 
undergo their changes. To find them, therefore, birds must hunt 
for them. This would be very natural work for woodpeckers, tit- 
mice, creepers, and nuthatches, but it seems a surprising habit for 
an oriole. 

Grasshoppers probably do not come much in the oriole's way. 
They were eaten, however, to the extent of a little more than 3 per- 
cent. In June they rise to somewhat more than 11 percent, which 
is the maximum. August is the month in which most birds eat the 
greatest quantities of grasshoppers, but none of the orioles collected 
in that month had eaten any. In spite of the fact, however, that 
grasshoppers are eaten so sparingly, 2 stomachs, both taken in June, 
contained nothing else, and another had 97 percent of them. 

Various insects and spiders, with a few other elements, make up 
the rest, of the animal food, a little more than 5 percent. Spiders do 
not form any important percentage of the oriole's food, but are prob- 
ably eaten whenever found. They were identified in 44 stomachs, 
but no great number appeared in any. The scales of a lizard were 
found in one stomach and the shell of a snail in another. Eggshells 
occurred in 8 stomachs, and one egg was apparently eaten when fresh. 

Eggshells are often seen in birds' stomachs and in most cases are 
supposed to be empty shells, which have been thrown from the nest. 
In the examination of the stomachs of over 200 species of birds, 
eggshells have been found in some of the stomachs of a great majority 
of the species. While most of these may have been empty shells, 
some of the cases are very questionable, and it is probable that occa- 
sionally individuals of most species of birds yield to the temptation 
to eat a fresh egg when a favorable opportunity occurs. 

Vegetable food. — Practically all of the vegetable food consists of 
fruit, which amounts to a little more than 9 percent. Other vege- 
table matter aggregating less than 2 percent is largely rubbish, prob- 
ably taken accidentally. Fruit was eaten in the four months from 
May to August inclusive. The maximum quantity was taken in 
July, when it amounted to nearly 40 percent. It was found in 67 
stomachs, of which 16 contained cherries; 11, figs; 5, blackberries or 
raspberries; 1, elderberries; and 34, fruit pulp not further identified. 
One stomach was entirely filled with the pulp and seeds of figs. 
While this is a high percentage of fruit, most of which is of cultivated 
varieties, it is probably well paid for by the destruction of harmful 
insects. It is doubtful if any fruit grower would be willing to sacri- 


fice the oriole, with its brilliant plumage and cheerful song, even if 
it took more fruit than it now does. 


From an esthetic point of view the Bullock oriole has few rivals, 
and from an economic standpoint it has only one fault — that it does 
eat some fruit. It is not, however, so abundant that its ravages are 
likely ever to become serious, and its present numbers should be 
strictly protected. 


The sparrow f amity embraces a large number of birds of wide 
distribution, great diversity of form, and considerable variation in 
food habits. They are in general characterized by short, stout, 
conical bills, with which they hull seeds or crush beetles and the 
toughest skinned fruit. They are the great seed eaters of the feath- 
ered race. The quantity of seeds of noxious weeds consumed by 
the host of sparrows, especially in winter, is enormous. While the 
great bulk of the food of this family consists of vegetable matter, 
most of the species eat some animal food during the period of repro- 
duction, and feed their young upon it during the first two weeks of 
their lives. The sparrows proper, commonly known as finches, 
linnets, or buntings, are, with a few exceptions, of subdued colors 
and quiet habits and subsist mostly upon vegetable food. On the 
other hand, such aberrant forms as grosbeaks and towhees eat a 
certain amount of animal food throughout the year. 

In California about 60 species and subspecies of sparrows proper 
have been recorded, besides about a dozen grosbeaks and towhees. 
Not all of these, however, have such habits as render them of economic 
importance, and as many of the subspecies do not differ essentially 
in their food they are treated together. 


(Astragalinus tristis salicamans.) 

The willow goldfinch, while found over most of the State west of 
the Sierra, is very locally distributed. Its plumage is beautiful, and 
its song, while not remarkable for power or volume, is sweet and 
cheery. The western goldfinches, like the eastern, feed principally 
upon seeds, and seem to have a special taste for those of thistles. 
When one finds a ripe thistle head, he at once begins to pick out the 
seeds and scatter the down, at the same time making a great jubi- 
lation, as though he enjoyed the fun of seeing the down fly. This 
habit has earned for them the name of thistle bird. They are 


eminently seed lovers, and rarely eat anything else, except a few- 
insects during the season of reproduction. The only mischief so 
far imputed to them is the eating of the seeds of useful plants, such 
as lettuce and other vegetables on seed farms. Investigation has 
failed, however, to find a case where the damage was considerable. 
The writer visited some of the largest seed farms in California and 
ascertained that while birds, especially goldfinches, ate some of the 
ripening seeds, the damage had never been serious enough to warrant 
any protective measures. The writer observed goldfinches feeding 
on lettuce seed, but the birds were few, and all they could eat would 
have no appreciable effect on the quantity of seed harvested. 

One marked peculiarity of the goldfinches is their bibulous habits. 
They seem always in need of water, perhaps owing to the habit of 
eating dry seeds. The writer has seen more goldfinches drinking in 
one day than he has seen of all other species in his whole life. 

Only 84 stomachs of the willow goldfinch were available for exami- 
nation, but such is the uniformity of the food that a larger number 
would probably not give a very different result. No stomachs 
were taken in December, but all the other months were represented. 
The food for those months amounts to 5 percent of animal matter 
to 95 of vegetable. All the animal food was found in 10 stomachs, 
9 being taken in March, April, and May, and 1, containing 2 larvae, 
in September. Practically all the vegetable matter is seeds. 

Animal food. — The animal food was composed entirely of 3 orders 
of insects: Bugs (Hemiptera), flies (Diptera), and caterpillars 
(Lepidoptera). Bugs were contained in 5 stomachs and were all 
plant lice (Aphididse). They aggregated a little less than 2 percent. 
Flies were found in 1 stomach taken in April. They were in the shape 
of larvae or maggots and amounted to less than one-half of 1 per- 
cent. Caterpillars were contained in 6 stomachs and aggregated 
less than 3 percent. Beetles, wasps, ants, and grasshoppers, which 
so often constitute the bulk of the animal food of birds, are entirely 
wanting in the stomachs of the willow goldfinch, as also are spiders. 

Vegetable food. — Vegetable matter appeared in every one of the 
84 stomachs, and 73 of them held no other food. Hulls of oats were 
found in 1 stomach taken in May. It amounted to 65 percent of 
the contents of that stomach, and was the only thing of economic 
value found in any one of the 84 stomachs. It amounted to less than 
one-half of 1 percent of the year's food. Seeds of various weeds come 
to over 91 percent of the diet, and are found in every stomach in every 
month. For seven months weed seed constituted the entire food. 
The following plants were identified: Centaur ea or bur thistle in 18 
stomachs, alfilaria or filaree in 13, sunflower in 12, groundsel in 4, 
mouse-ear, rust weed, and tarweed in 2 each. As the goldfinch takes 
a good deal of gravel into its stomach, many of the seeds are ground 


up so that recognition is impossible. A few stomachs contained a 
vegetable food that could not be identified, perhaps some large seed 
broken up and discolored. Two stomachs containing this substance 
were those of nestlings 12 days old. One 1 was entirely filled with it, 
but the other contained 75 percent of caterpillars. 


There are probably few birds that do so little harm as the willow 
goldfinch. Its animal food, though small in quantity, is composed 
entirely of harmful insects. It eats no fruit and practically no grain. 
Most of its food consists of the seeds of noxious or neutral plants. Its 
food habits commend the bird, as much as its bright plumage and 
fine song. 


(Astragalinus psaltria hesperophilus.) 

The green-backed goldfinch (PL VI) occurs over most of California, 
except the mountains and the deserts, and is one of the most abun- 
dant birds. It is a lover of the orchard and garden, and delights to 
linger along the roads and in weed patches. Its favorite feeding 
grounds are in open pastures, where the bur thistle (Centaur ea 
melitensis) grows, a plant specially adapted to the wants of the gold- 
finch, for it throws out from the roots short seed-bearing stalks that 
bear seed, while the rest of the plant is making growth and getting 
ready to produce the main crop. The goldfinches know where these 
seeds are, and apparently get every one of them. Next in favor is the 
groundsel (Senecio), which grows in orchards, and on the unripe seeds 
of which the goldfinches feed to repletion. In the investigation of 
the food of this bird 476 stomachs were examined. They were taken 
in every month, and are well distributed. Animal food amounts to 
1.7 percent and vegetable food to 98.3. 

Animal food. — Animal food was contained in 50 stomachs, all 
taken in the four months from June to September inclusive, except 
one, which was taken in November. This stomach contained 20 per- 
cent of some insect food, apparently flies. In one stomach taken in 
September beetles formed 1 percent of the contents. No other trace 
of a beetle was found. A small wasp or bee was identified in one 
stomach, also taken in September. It amounted to 2 percent of the 
contents and was the only hymenopterous insect found. Cater- 
pillars amount to only a small fraction of 1 percent, and were con- 
tained in 2 stomachs, one taken in June and the other in July. 

The great bulk of the animal food was made up of Hemiptera in 
the form of plant lice. These were found in 46 stomachs distributed 
through the four months from June to September inclusive, though 
more than half of them were taken in August. One stomach was 


entirely filled with these insects, and in another 300 were counted. 
Considered in relation to the food of the year, however, they amount 
to only 1.6 percent. Many of these plant lice are of the kind com- 
monly called woolly aphids, because their bodies are covered with 
a white cottony appearing substance, really a white wax, which 
exudes from the body of the insect. While the destruction of this 
small number of insects may seem insignificant, yet the goldfinch is 
one of the forces that keep within reasonable bounds the immense 
swarms of these prolific and pestiferous creatures. By far the greater 
number of these aphids were found in the crops and not in the 
stomachs; but as many of the latter were not accompanied by the 
crops, possibly the goldfinch consumes many more of these insects 
than is shown above. Then, too, aphids are very fragile, and by the 
time they reached the stomach many of them were probably too much 
reduced to be identified. 

Vegetable food. — The vegetable food may be divided into 4 cate- 
gories: Fruit, grain, weeds, and miscellaneous matter. Fruit was 
found in 7 stomachs, all taken in June, July, and August. In one 
case it was a berry with small seeds, which have not yet been identified ; 
in the others it could be classed only as fruit pulp. Altogether it 
amounts to three-tenths of 1 percent of the year's food. A single 
kernel of wheat was found in 1 stomach taken in December. Weed 
seed is the standard food of this goldfinch. It aggregates over 96 
percent of the year's diet, and in January and March nothing else is 
eaten. The month of least consumption, August, shows over 86 per- 
cent, and in every other month it is above 94. While several species 
are eaten freely, the chief is the Napa, or bur thistle (Centaur ea meli- 
tensis), which was found in 243 of the 476 stomachs, and would seem 
to be the staff of life of the goldfinch. It is a small hard seed covered 
with an apparently siliceous shell, with a hook at one end and a 
bunch of stiff bristles at the other. a Generally the bird skillfully 
removes this shell and swallows only the starchy pulp. Many kinds 
of weed seed were found in the 469 stomachs examined, and only 7 
did not contain any; 394 contained nothing else. 

Other vegetable food, some of it not satisfactorily identified and 
some of it rubbish, amounts to 1J percent of the whole. In regard 
to eating seeds of garden vegetables on seed farms, what was said of 
the willow goldfinch will apply with equal truth to this species. 
What seemed to be the petals of flowers were found in a few stomachs, 
but did not reach a respectable percentage. It does not appear 
that the green-backed goldfinch requires any other food than weed 
seed, and of this one or two varieties suffice. The following is a list 

a PL II, fig. 1, Part I, opp. p. 16. 

Bull. 34, Biological Survey, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture. 

Plate VI 


A-Hoeni Cd Baltimore. 

Green-backed Goldfinch 


of the seeds identified and the number of stomachs in which each 
species was found: 

Sunflower (Helianthus sp.) 4 

Lesser tarweed (Hemizonia fasticulata) 1 

Tarweed ( Madia sativa) 23 

Mayweed (Anthemis cotula) 10 

Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) 33 

Bur thistle ( Centaurea melitensis) 243 

Black nightshade (Solarium nigrum) 1 

Turkey mullein (Eremocarpus setigerus) _ 18 

Alfilaria (Erodium cicutarium) 9 

Black mustard (Brassica nigra) 1 

Miner's lettuce ( Montia perfoliata) 2 

Red maids ( Calandrinia menziesi) 1 

Pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus) 30 

Chickweed (Stellaria media) 3 

Catchfly (Silene sp.) 1 

Knotweed (Polygonum sp.) 2 

Sorrel (Rumex sp.) 1 

Sedge ( Carex sp.) 6 


If there are any faults in the food habits of the green-backed gold- 
finch, the writer does not know them. The little animal food it con- 
sumes consists of harmful insects, and practically all of its vegetable 
food consists of seeds of useless or harmful weeds. This goldfinch 
should be protected to the fullest extent. 


(Zonotrichia leucophrys gambeli and nuttalli.) 

One or the other of these two subspecies of the white-crowned 
sparrow is found throughout the year in some part of California, and 
in winter the intermediate (gambeli) is distributed nearly all over the 
lower parts of the State. These sparrows frequent valleys, brushy 
hillsides, highways, and cultivated fields. The only complaint against 
them is that in spring and in winter they eat buds of fruit trees. Buds 
are usually overabundant, and the loss of some is generally a benefit 
to the tree ; in any event it would require a very thorough disbudding 
to do much damage. 

For the investigation of the bird's food, 516 stomachs were avail- 
able, taken in every month of the year, though August was represented 
by only one, and May and July by two each. The first analysis gives 
7.4 percent of animai matter to 92.6 of vegetable. 

Animal food. — Beetles amount to 1.4 percent of the food. In June 
they reach nearly 8 percent, but in the other months are unimportant. 
Practically all of them are harmful. Hymenoptera amount to 1.9 
percent. In June they reach over 16 percent, but in the other months 


rise barely above 1 percent. They were contained in 66 stomachs, 
of which 48 held ants and 18 contained wasps and bees. Parasitic 
species were noted in several stomachs. 

Hemiptera amount to one-half of 1 percent, and were identified in 
11 stomachs, of which 5 contained black olive scales; 2, leaf hoppers; 
3, stinkbugs; and 1, a tree hopper. Caterpillars are the largest item 
of animal food and amount to about 3.5 percent. Most of them were 
eaten in July, when they constituted 37.5 percent of the food, but as 
only 2 stomachs were collected in that month, this record can not be 
taken as final. 

Vegetable food. — Fruit amounts to 4.5 percent. It was eaten rather 
irregularly, but most of it from March to July, inclusive. A mere trace 
was found in stomachs taken in September and October. Elder- 
berries were found in 5 stomachs, blackberries or raspberries in 3, 
figs in 3, cherries in 2, and in 1 a small berry not positively identi- 
fied. , The cherries were unripe and only partly grown. A little pulp 
was noticed that might have been from some larger fruit. The great 
bulk of it was taken in May, June, and July. Grain aggregates 8.6 
percent. It was contained in 69 stomachs, as follows: Oats in 56, 
wheat in 7, barley in 5, and corn in 1. Most of it was eaten in the 
three winter months, a little in the fall and spring, but practically 
none in summer. Only 3.5 percent was eaten in March, which would 
seem to indicate that this bird does not devour the newly sown grain. 

Like many other fringilline birds, white-crowned sparrows subsist 
largely on weed seed. It is eaten freely in every month, and amounts 
to 74 percent of the yearly food. June is the month of least consump- 
tion, 33 percent, but that is the month when the most insects and fruit 
are eaten. The 1 stomach taken in August was entirely filled with 
this food, and it was over 90 percent of the contents of those taken in 
September and October. Of the 516 stomachs only 38, or a little 
more than 7 percent, contained no weed seed. 

Following is a list of the species identified and the number of 
stomachs in which each was contained: 

Sunflower (Helianthus sp . ) 3 

Lesser tarweed (Hemizonia fasciculata) 1 

Tarweed ( Madia sativa) 34 

Mayweed (Anthemis cotula) 75 

Bur thistle ( Centaurea melitensis) 38 

Sow thistle (Sonchus asper) 4 

Prickly lettuce (Lactuca scariola) 1 

Nightshade (Solarium nigrum) 70 

Senna ( Cassia sp.) 7 

Lupine (Lupinus sp.) 1 

Clover ( Trifolium sp.) 1 

Mountain lilac ( Ceanothus sp.) 1 

Poison oak (Rhus diversiloba) 12 

Alfilaria (Erodium cicutarium) 45 


Geranium (Geranium dissectum) 18 

Black mustard (Brassicd nigra) 3 

California poppy (Eschscholtzia californica) 1 

Miner's lettuce ( Montia perfoliata) 29 

Red maids ( Calandrinia menziesi) 4 

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) 4 

Pigweed ( Chenopodium album) 12 

Rough pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus) 208 

Spurry (Spergula arvensis) 10 

Chickweed (Stellaria media) 16 

Catchfly (Silene sp.) 29 

Knotweed (Polygonum sp.) 76 

Sorrel (Rumex sp.) 18 

Brome grass (Bromus sp.) 20 

Wild oats (Avena fatua) 34 

Canary seed (Phalaris canariensis) 2 

Johnson grass (Andropogon sorghum) 1 

Sedge (Carex sp.) 11 

Unidentified 168 

As this bird takes a great deal of gravel, the seeds eaten are soon 
ground into paste, which renders specific identification impossible. 
Many stomachs were entirely filled with food in this condition, which 
accounts for the large amount of unidentified material. Very few 
whole seeds were unidentified. The white-crown is evidently fond 
of variety, for several stomachs contained as many as 9 different 
species of seeds. It will be noted also that rough pigweed is the 
favorite food, while the Arkansas goldfinch preferred bur thistle. 

Miscellaneous vegetable matter amounts to 5 per cent, and was 
found in 30 stomachs. Of these, 11 contained fragments of flowers, 
probably of fruit trees, for in some cases the embryo fruit could be 
made out. This is not a very heavy indictment on the score of 
destroying buds and blossoms. Fibrous vegetable matter of uncer- 
tain origin was found in quite a number of stomachs ; perhaps it was 
grass which had been subjected to the grinding action of the stomach. 


Evidently neither the farmer nor the fruit grower has much to fear 
from the white-crowned sparrow. On the contrary the bird destroys 
some insects, all of which are harmful, and a vast number of seeds of 
noxious weeds. The little fruit it eats is mostly wild, and its grain 
eating is practically confined to the months when the only grain 
available is waste or volunteer. In the above record there is little 
to substantiate the accusation that the bird destroys fruit buds, and 
probably it is only under very exceptional circumstances that it does 
any damage in this way. 



(Zonotrichia coronata.) 

The golden-crowned sparrow arrives in California from the north 
in September, and departs for its summer residence in April. In 
winter it spreads over the country, lives wherever food can be obtained, 
except perhaps in the forest, and may often be seen in the garden 
among the fruit trees or in the rose bushes. It is also found in lonely 
canyons or on the cattle ranges in the hills. In general appearance 
and in food habits it does not differ essentially from the white-crown. 
For the determination of its food 184 stomachs were available, taken 
from October to April, inclusive. The animal food amounts to 0.9 
percent, vegetable to 99.1. 

Animal food. — The animal food consists of insects, and is pretty 
well distributed among the various orders. No great quantity was 
found in any one stomach, and it is eaten so rarely and in such small 
quantities that the wonder is that it is eaten at all. Singularly 
enough two worker honeybees were found in one stomach. It is 
evident that the golden-crown does not search for insects, and takes 
only those that come in its way. 

Vegetable food. — The vegetable food consists of fruit, buds and 
flowers, grain, and some miscellaneous matter. Fruit can not be a 
prominent item in the food of this sparrow, owing to the time of year 
it spends in California. One stomach taken in March contained a 
little fruit pulp, probably left over from the previous season. Fruit 
was found also in 2 stomachs taken in October and in 2 taken in 
November. In one it consisted of elderberries; in one, of grape; in 
another, it was thought to be apple; while in the fourth, it was 
unidentifiable. In all, it amounts to a little more than 1 percent 
of the food. Remains of buds and flowers were found in stomachs 
taken in every month of the bird's stay in the State, except October 
and November, when buds are very small. They were found in 56 
stomachs; the average for the season is 29.5 percent, and in March 
it rises to nearly 78 percent. Where this bird is abundant, it may do 
mischief if it visits the orchards. In the stomach of no other species 
yet examined has been found so much of this kind of food, which 
makes it probable that much of the bud and flower eating imputed 
to the linnet and white-crown is really done by the golden-crown. 

Grain was eaten during every month of the bird's stay in the State, 
but as none of these was a harvest month, little damage was done. 
March, the sowing month, showed but little more than 5 percent, 
while over 66 percent was eaten in January. The average for the 
season was nearly 26 percent. It was found in 23 stomachs, of 
which 12 contained oats; 6, wheat; 2, barley; 2, corn; and 1, doubtful. 


Weed seed amounts to 33 percent of the food and is eaten in every 
month. It is, however, complementary to the bud and blossom 
food, the one increasing as the other decreases. Weed seed begins 
with a percentage of 83 in October, and gradually diminishes, while 
buds and blossoms appear first in December with 22 percent and 
increase to their maximum in April. 

Below is a list of species identified, showing the number of stomachs 
in which each was contained : 

Tarweed ( Madia sativa) 11 

Mayweed (Anthemis cotula) 15 

Bur thistle ( Centaurea melitensis) 18 

Nightshade (Solarium nigrum) 16 

Lupine (Lupinus sp.) 1 

Clover ( Trifolium sp.) 2 

Turkey mullein (Eremocarpus setigerus) 2 

Poison oak (Rhus diversiloba) 30 

Alfilaria (Erodium cicutarium) 16 

Geranium (Geranium dissectum) 16 

Mustard (Brassica nigra) 1 

Rough pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus) 18 

Spurry (Spergula arvensis) 4 

Chickweed (Stellaria media) 10 

Catchfly (Silene sp.) 1 

Knotweed (Polygonum sp.) 10 

Sorrel (Rumex sp.) 10 

Brome grass (Bromus sp.) 11 

Sedge ( Carex sp.) 1 

Seeds of conifer 1 

Unidentified 39 

The last item includes stomachs in which the food was ground to a 
pulp, rendering identification impossible. Few whole seeds were 
unidentified. Poison-oak seeds are indicated as found in 30 stomachs, 
but as a matter of fact not a single seed of that plant was seen in any 
stomach. The birds ate only the wax which surrounds those seeds 
and which contains certain woody granules by which it can at once 
be identified. This species, then, does not aid in the dissemination of 
these noxious plants. 


From the foregoing it is evident that the golden-crown during its 
stay in California does but little service in destroying insects. On 
the other hand, it does no direct harm to fruit, and little, if any, to 
grain. It does good by destroying weed seed, although not as much 
as some other species. By the destruction of buds and blossoms it 
may do serious harm where it is numerous and visits the orchards. 



(Spizella passerina arizonx.) 

The western chipping sparrow occurs during the breeding season 
and early fall over most of the State, and winters sparingly in the 
southern part. Like its eastern relative it is very domestic, and often 
builds its nests in gardens and orchards. The bird well merits the 
name socialis, now, unhappily, superseded, and its gentle and con- 
fiding ways endear it to all bird lovers. It is one of the most insectiv- 
orous of all the sparrows, and is valuable in the garden or about the 

For the investigation of this bird's food 96 stomachs were available. 
They were taken from April to October inclusive, and probably give 
a fair idea of the food for that part of the year. It is quite likely 
that the winter food consists largely, if not entirely, of weed seeds, as 

4 stomachs taken in the southern part of the State in winter (not 
included in this investigation) were almost entirely filled with this 
food. The first division of the stomachs' contents gives 45 percent 
of animal food and 55 percent of vegetable. 

Animal food. — The animal food consists of insects and spiders, with 
a few bits of eggshell. Beetles were eaten from April to August inclu- 
sive, with the maximum of 23 percent in July. In one stomach were 
the remains of 30 weevils or snout beetles, but so badly crushed and 
broken that specific identification was impossible. The average 
monthly percentage is 6.7. Hymenoptera amount to 11.8 percent. 
They are represented mostly by ants, with which several stomachs 
were entirely filled. The greatest quantity were eaten in June, when 
they aggregated 67.5 percent, or more than four-fifths of the animal 
food for the month. In the other months they were taken rather 
irregularly and in small quantities. 

Hemiptera are eaten to the average extent of 7.5 percent. They 
appear rather irregularly, and the greatest consumption is in October, 
20 percent. None were found in August or September stomachs, but 
as only 4 were collected in October, and not many in the two previous 
months, the record can not be considered as fully reliable. They con- 
sist of stinkbugs and leafhoppers, with a few others, of which the 
most interesting are scales and plant lice. These were each found in 

5 stomachs. The scales were the black olive species (Saissetia olese). 
Diptera, or flies, do not appear to be favorite food with the chipping 
sparrow. They were eaten only in the months from April to July 
inclusive, with the maximum consumption in May, when about 12 
percent were taken, or more than half of all. The average per month 
is only 3 percent. 

Caterpillars are evidently the favorite animal food, as they were 
eaten to an average extent of 14.7 percent, or more than any other 


insect. They appear in the food during every month of the bird's 
stay in the north except October, and probably a greater number of 
stomachs would have shown some in that month. Two stomachs 
contained pupae of the codling moth. Only one stomach held grass- 
hoppers, and that was taken in June. Some spiders and eggshells 
make up nearly 1 percent, and complete the animal food. 

Vegetable food. — Grain in the shape of oats was found in 5 stomachs, 
all collected in July. The total amount for that month is 6 percent, 
or less than 1 percent for the season. A mere trace of fruit was found 
in one stomach in June. Weed seed was eaten in every month of the 
bird's stay, and probably throughout the year. It amounts to over 
53 percent of the food, and in September rises to 98 percent. June 
was the month of least consumption, 9 percent, when insects evidently 
took its place. The species identified, and the number of stomachs 
in which each was found, are as follows: 

Bur thistle ( Centaurea melitensis) 2 

Nightshade (Solarium nigrum) 1 

Alfilaria (Erodium cicutarium) 37 

Miner's lettuce ( Montia perfoliata) 3 

Red maids ( Calindrinia menzeisi) 2 

Rough pigweed (Amaranihus retroflexus) 16 

Chickweed (Stellaria media) 13 

Knotweed (Polygonum sp.) 1 

Timothy (Phleum pratense) 1 

Meadow grass (Poa sp.) 1 

Panic grass (Panicum sanguinale) 2 

Wild oats (Avenafatua) 1 

Sedge (Carex sp.) 2 

Unidentified 32 

Most of the unidentified seeds were so badly ground up that it was 
impossible to recognize the species. The greater part probably 
belonged to species included in the above list. A few very small 
grass seeds were not further identified. 

Feeding the young. — A nest with 4 young of this species, about 6 days 
old when first observed, was watched at different hours rfn four days. 
On the morning of the fifth day a pair of jays carried off the young 
birds. In the seven hours of observation 119 feedings were noted, 
or an average of 17 feedings per hour, or four and one-fourth feedings 
per hour to each nestling. This would give for a day of fourteen hours 
at least 238 insects destroyed by the brood. 


In the foregoing discussion of the food of the chipping sparrow it 
plainly appears that the diet is made up almost exclusively of harm- 
ful elements. No useful beetles of any consequence were eaten. Of 
Hymenoptera, ants, which are either harmful or neutral, predominate, 
38301— Bull. 34—10 6 


while caterpillars, which are a universal pest, are the favorite animal 
food. In the vegetable portion of the diet fruit and grain appear as 
mere traces, while the seeds of noxious weeds make up the bulk of 
the food. It is not necessary to further eulogize this bird, as it is 
already welcomed everywhere, as it should be. 


{Junco hyemalis thurberi and other subspecies.) 

Several subspecies of junco occur in California. One form, J. 
pinosus, is a resident of the Monterey Bay region the year round. 
Another, thurberi, is a resident of the State throughout the year, but 
winters in the valleys and breeds in the mountains. Two others, 
oreganus and connectens, occur in winter only, when all the forms 
spread out and cover a considerable part of the State. It would be 
better to treat the four races separately, but as many of the stomachs 
were collected before the races were recognized, their exact identity 
is unknown. They will be discussed, therefore, as a whole, but what 
is said of summer food will not apply to oreganus and connectens. 

For this investigation 269 stomachs were available. They were 
collected in every month except May. March, April, June, and 
August are poorly represented, but the other months have each a 
good quota. The first analysis of the food gives 24 percent of animal 
matter to 76 of vegetable. 

Animal food. — Beetles amount to 5 percent, and nearly all were 
eaten in the months from March to July inclusive, with no record 
for May. With the exception of two ladybirds (Coccinellidse) found 
in 2 stomachs, not a useful species was identified in the whole. 
Weevils make up the bulk of this item, and a species of scolytid 
(PMazosinus punctatus) was found in 1 stomach to the extent of 
65 percent of its contents. Hymenoptera were represented mostly 
by ants, with a few wasps, amounting in all to a little more than 2 
percent of the food. Caterpillars are apparently the favorite insect 
food, forming 9.4 percent of the diet. The great bulk were eaten 
from April to August, and the single stomach taken in August con- 
tained 67 percent of them. No special pest was identified. Bugs, 
grasshoppers, a few other insects, and spiders, make up the remainder 
of the animal food, 7.3 percent. 

Vegetable food. — Seeds of blackberry or raspberry were found in 
1 stomach and elderberries in 2. In 14 stomachs taken in November 
was found fruit pulp averaging over 11 percent of the food of the 
month. As all fruit except olives is harvested before that time, 
probably the berries were of no value. 

Grain was eaten from October to March inclusive, and amounted 
to 8 percent for the year. All of it was contained in 30 stomachs, as 


follows: Oats in 15, wheat in 9, barley in 4, corn in 1, and unidenti- 
fied in 1. None was taken in a harvest month. The greatest 
amount, more than 30 percent, was eaten in March, the sowing 
month, probably much of it from newly sown fields. 

Weed seed aggregates 61.8 percent of the food, and was eaten in 
every month. In September it amounted to nearly 95 percent. A 
few seeds, mostly of grass, were not identified. The following is a 
list of identified species and the number of stomachs in which each 
was contained: 

Ragweed (Ambrosia sp.) 1 

Tarweed ( Madia sativa) 4 

Mayweed (Anthemis cotula) 11 

Bur thistle ( Centaurea melitensis) 16 

Sow thistle (Sonchus asper) 2 

Nightshade (Solarium nigrum) 11 

Lupine (Lupinus sp.) 1 

Clover ( Trifolium sp.) 1 

Poison oak (Rhus diversiloba) 13 

Alfilaria (Erodium cicutarium) 34 

Geranium (Geranium dissectum) ■ 4 

Mustard (Brassica nigra) 3 

Miner's lettuce ( Montia perfoliata) 13 

Red maids ( Calandrinia menziesi) 2 

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) 1 

Rough pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus) 35 

Spurry (Spergula arvensis) 9 

Chickweed (Stellaria media) 42 

Catchfly (Silene sp.) 21 

Knotweed (Polygonum sp.) 33 

Sorrel (Rumex sp.) 26 

Wild oats (Avenafatua) 8 

Timothy (Phleum pratense) 1 

Panic grass (Panicum sp.) 3 

Sedge ( Carex sp.) 14 

Coniferous seeds not identified 4 

Unidentified 2 

Remains of blossoms were found in 1 stomach. The seeds of 
poison oak were not discovered in the stomachs, but the characteristic 
granules that are embedded in the waxy coating of the seeds were 
identified, thus showing that the birds eat this wax without swallow- 
ing the seed itself. 


The insect food of the snowbirds is composed almost entirely of 
harmful species, of which caterpillars form the largest item. Snow- 
birds do no damage to fruit or grain. They eat large quantities of 
weed seeds ? thereby rendering a service to agriculture, 



(Melospiza melodia samuelis, heermani, and other subspecies.) 

Song sparrows inhabit not only the greater part of California but 
all of the United States, except areas where conditions are unsuitable. 
These birds vary much in habits, as well as in size and coloration. 
Some forms live along streams bordered by deserts, others in swamps 
among bulrushes and tules, others in timbered regions, others on 
rocky barren hillsides, and still others in rich fertile valleys. Each 
area has its peculiar form, and in fact it is hard to imagine any locality 
adapted to a land bird of the Temperate Zone which does not fit some 
form of the song sparrow. With such a variety of habitat, the food 
of the species necessarily varies considerably. It is impossible to 
treat here the several forms separately, and the best we can do is to 
give a general idea of the yearly diet of the species as a whole. 

For the investigation of the food of the western song sparrows, 321 
stomachs, belonging to 4 or 5 subspecies, were available. They 
were collected in every month of the year, and fairly represent the 
whole State. The first analysis separates the food into 21 percent 
of animal matter and 79 of vegetable. This is less animal food than 
is eaten by the snowbird, much less than by the chipping sparrow, 
but much more than by the white-crowned or golden-crowned 

Animal food. — Animal food, consisting , principally of insects, is 
eaten with a fair degree of regularity through the year. Beginning 
with a minimum of 3 percent in September, based on the examina- 
tion of 97 stomachs, it rises gradually to a maximum of over 71 
percent in May. Beetles are the largest item, and a greater or less 
number were eaten every month except December, an omission 
probably accidental. The average for the year is 6.6 percent. In 
June, the month of greatest consumption, nearly 29 percent were 
eaten. With the exception of the remains of tiger beetles (Cicin- 
delidse) in 3 stomachs and predaceous ground beetles (Carabidse) in 
10, all were of harmful families, the leaf beetles (Chrysomelidse) and 
weevils (Rhynchophora) being most prominent. 

Hymenoptera (bees, wasps, and ants) were taken very irregularly, 
and amount to only 3 percent of the food. Ants were found in 22 
stomachs, and bees and wasps in 20. Hemiptera, or bugs, form only 
about 2 percent of the year's food, but 17 percent of the food eaten 
in May. The black olive scale was found in 2 stomachs and a species 
not identified in 1. Leafhoppers, spittle insects (Cercopidse), and 
a few other forms make up the rest of this item. Diptera (flies) were 
eaten from May to September inclusive. In May they amount to 
over 11 per cent, but fall away rapidly, and the aggregate for the 
year is only 2 percent. A few crane flies (Tipulidse) and the house 
fly family (Muscidse) were the only forms recognized. 


Caterpillars, while taken in nearly every month, were eaten very 
irregularly and to the extent of 4.3 percent only. There was a fair 
percentage from March to August inclusive, but in other months a 
trifle or none, except December, in which 5 percent were found. May 
shows the greatest amount, 14 percent. Grasshoppers are apparently 
not relished by the song sparrow. A mere trace of these insects was 
found in a few stomachs collected in February, May, June, and August. 
They do not form an appreciable percentage of the food. A few 
insects too finely pulverized for recognition, some spiders, and a few 
snails make up the remainder of the animal food, 2.5 percent. 

Vegetable food. — Evidence of fruit eating was found in 19 stomachs 
as follows: Seeds of Rubus (blackberries or raspberries) in 9, elder- 
berries in 4, cherries in 2, figs in 1, and fruit pulp or skins in 3. In 
all it amounts to a trifle more than 2 percent of the food. Grain was 
absent in all stomachs collected from February to June inclusive, and 
in November. What was eaten in the other months comes to a little 
more than 3 percent for the year. The most, 1 1 percent, was taken 
in January, but July shows very nearly the same. This last was 
perhaps gleaned from the field. The varieties are as follows: Barley 
found in 7 stomachs, oats in 5, and wheat in 2. 

The chief food of the song sparrow is weed seed. This amounts 
to 73 percent of the year's food, and varies from one-fifth to very 
nearly the whole of each month's diet. In September, when animal 
food is at its minimum, weed seed reaches a little more than 93 per- 
cent. On the other hand, in May, when animal food is at its maxi- 
mum, weed seed shrinks to a little less than 21 percent. Of the 321 
stomachs, 302, or 94 percent, contained weed seed. Of these, 171, 
or 53 percent of all, were completely filled with it. There were only 
19 stomachs that did not contain more or less of this food. The 
record of this sparrow for eating weed seed is excelled by only four 
species of California birds — the linnet, the two goldfinches, and the 
white-crowned sparrow. 

Following are the species of weed seeds identified and the number 
of stomachs in which each was found: 

Sunflower (Helianthus sp.) 1 

Lesser tarweed (Hemizonia fasticulata) 1 

Tarweed ( Madia sativa) 9 

Mayweed (Anthemis cotula) 7 

Bur thistle ( Centaurea melitensis) 36 

Sow thistle (Sonchus asper and oleraceus) 5 

Salsify ( Tragopogon porrifolius) 1 

Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) 1 

Nightshade (Solanum nigrum) 35 

Nine bark (Opulaster opulifolius) 1 

Turkey mullein (Eremocarpus setigerus) 1 

Poison oak (Rhus diversiloba) 3 

Alfilaria (Erodium cicutarium) 23 


Geranium {Geranium carolinianum) 1 

Mustard (Brassica nigra) 1 

Miner's lettuce ( Montia perfoliata) 26 

Red maids ( Calandrinia menziesi) 6 

Pigweed ( Chenopodium album) 1 

Rough pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus) 113 

Spurry (Spergula arvensis) 12 

Chickweed (Stellaria media) 32 

Catchfly (Silene sp.) , 3 

Knotweed (Polygonum sp.) 44 

Sorrel (Rumex sp.) 16 

Brome grass (Bromus sp.) 4 

Wild oats (Avenafatua) 14 

Timothy (Phleum pratense) 1 

Canary seed (Phalaris caroliniana) 2 

Fox tail (Chaetochloa sp.) 1 

Panic grass (Panicum sanguinale) 4 

Sedge ( Carex sp.) 8 

Unidentified 97 

As usual, the unidentified were either ground to pulp or were seeds 
of some unknown grass. Evidently the rough pigweed seed (Ama- 
ranthus) is the favorite. Several stomachs contained nothing else. 


The economic status of the song sparrow can be summarized in a 
few words. It eats a comparatively small number of insects, the 
majority of which are noxious. Fruit and grain are eaten so little 
as to be of no consequence. Nearly three-fourths of the diet consists 
of seeds of weeds, most of which are a nuisance. Neither stomach 
examinations nor field observations furnish evidence that the song 
sparrow does any harm. 


(Pipilo maculatus and subspecies.) 

Under one or other of its several subspecific forms the spotted 
towhee occurs almost throughout California. As it is resident over 
much of its range, the good or harm it does continues through the 
year. It is eminently a bird of the ground and underbrush, and 
delights in the thickest shrubbery, where it scratches among the dead 
leaves and twigs. Anyone who approaches the bushes too closely 
will probably see the bird depart from the opposite side and plunge 
into another thicket, and in this way one may chase it for hours with 
no more than an occasional glimpse. This bird is not common about 
orchard or garden, the chaparral-covered hillsides and canyons being 
more congenial resorts. It is abundant and widely distributed, and 
hence is comparatively important from an economic point of view. 

For the investigation of the food of this bird 139 stomachs were 
at hand, collected in every month of the year, though November to 
May inclusive were not represented as fully as was desirable. The 


first analysis of the food gives 24 percent of animal matter to 76 of 
vegetable. Dead leaves, bits of twigs, rotten wood, and other rub- 
bish are very common in the stomachs, and probably are swallowed 
accidentally with more nutritious morsels. 

Animal food. — -Beetles are the largest item of animal food, and 
amount to a little more than 10 percent. Although the larger part 
of the towhee's living is gleaned from the ground, only 4 stomachs 
contained the remains of predaceous ground beetles, and 2 others 
the remains of ladybirds (Coccinellidse). Weevils were found in 26 
stomachs, and in 13 stomachs were the remains of that harmful 
chrysomalid beetle Diabrotica soror. Besides these were fragments 
of elaterids, buprestids, and cerambycids, all of which in the larval 
state bore into trees and other plants and do great mischief. Hymen- 
optera amount to 6 percent of the diet, but are eaten rather irregu- 
larly. They are mostly taken in summer, but some appear at all 
times of the year. They were found in 39 stomachs, of which 25 
contained ants, and 14, wasps and bees. 

Bugs (Hemiptera) amount to 14 percent, and are distributed among 
several families; but the only point that merits mention is that the 
black olive scale was found in 4 stomachs and an unidentified scale 
in 1. The spotted towhee does not appear to care for grasshoppers. 
They form only 1.7 percent of the year's food, and are eaten very 
irregularly. In June they reach a little more than 11 percent, in 
August they amount to only 6 percent, and few were found in other 
months. Caterpillars aggregate 3.5 percent of the food. They are 
eaten rather irregularly, without much regard to season, but the 
greatest number, 12 percent, were taken in April. A few flies, some 
other insects, spiders, millepeds, and sowbugs (Oniscus) make up 
about 3 percent, the remainder of the animal food. These last are 
just what the bird would be expected to get by scratching among 

Vegetable food. — Fruit was eaten in every month from May to 
November inclusive, with a good percentage in each month. Janu- 
ary also shows 11.7 percent, but this was either wild or waste. The 
average for the year is 17.7 percent. The month of greatest consump- 
tion was November, when it amounted to 53.6 percent. All of it 
was in the shape of fruit pulp, not further identifiable. At that time 
of year it could have been of no value. Fruit pulp, identified only 
as such, was found in 23 stomachs. Rubus seeds and pulp (rasp- 
berries or blackberries) were found in 23 stomachs; cherries, grapes, 
and figs in 1 each. Elderberries (Sambucus glauca) were found in 6 
stomachs, snowberries (Symphoricarpos racemosus) in 3, and black 
twinberries (Lonicera involucrata) in 1. The fruit eaten in June and 
July was almost entirely Rubus fruit, which may have been either 
wild or cultivated, except in one case, where the seeds of Logan 


berries were identified. In August and September the fruit eaten 
was of the larger varieties, like apricots, peaches, and prunes. Later 
in the year the wild kinds only were taken. The one stomach which 
contained cherries was collected the last of May. If this bird were 
as abundant as the linnet, it would do considerable damage to the 
larger fruits. Under present conditions its depredations probably 
pass unnoticed. 

Grain was eaten from June to December, inclusive, except in 
November. The amount for the year is 4.7 percent. In August, the 
month of greatest consumption, 16 percent was taken. It was found 
in 17 stomachs, of which 10 contained oats; 3, wheat; 3, corn; and 
1, barley. As most of this was gleaned after harvest, probably no 
harm was done. 

Weed seed is a standard article of diet with this bird, as with 
many others. It was found in 93 of the 139 stomachs, and 11 con- 
tained nothing else. The average amount for the year is 34.6 per- 
cent of the food, and it was found in every month except March; 
but as only one bird was collected in that month, the exception is 
probably accidental. January was the month when most was eaten, 
62.8 percent, but as some other months stood nearly as high, this 
has no special significance. Bur thistle seems to be the favorite 
seed, although the towhee does not show so strong a preference for 
any weed as some other species exhibit. 

Following is a list of species identified and the number of stomachs 
in which each was found : , 

Tarweed ( Madia sativa) 10 

Bur thistle ( Centaurea melitensis) 27 

Nightshade (Solanum nigrum) 8 

Plantain (Plantago lanceolata) 1 

Senna ( Cassia sp. ) - 1 

Clover ( Trifolium sp. ) 1 

Legumes unidentified 3 

Turkey mullein (Eremocarpos setigerus) 2 

Poison oak (Rhus diversiloba) 11 

Sumac {Rhus sp.) , 1 

Alfilaria (Erodium cicutarium) 11 

Mustard (Brassica nigra) 1 

Miners' lettuce ( Montia perfoliata) 8 

Red maids ( Calandrinia menziesi) 2 

Rough pigweed (Amaranthus retrofiexus) 11 

Chickweed (Stellaria media) 8 

Knotweed (Polygonum sp.) - 4 

Sorrel (Rumex sp.) 5 

Wild oats (Avenafatua) 9 

Sedge (Carex sp.) ' 3 

Unidentified 34 

Another article of the towhee's food is mast. It is somewhat difficult 
to distinguish between mast and weed seed when both are ground to a 
pulp. As divided, however, mast amounts to 15.6 percent of the 


food. It was found in moderate quantities in stomachs collected 
from September to February inclusive, and jn April also it reached 
25 percent, with a trace in June. February was the month in which 
most was eaten, 46.5 percent. It was found in only 22 stomachs, 
but 8 of them were completely rilled with it. Leaf galls and some 
unidentified vegetable matter make up a little more than 3 percent, 
and complete the vegetable food. 


The spotted towhee is not numerous enough to inflict any great 
damage, whatever its food habits. Should it become very abundant 
it might do harm to fruit ; but it is so shy that the more the country 
is cleared and settled the more rare is it likely to become. 


(Pipilo crissalis and senicula.) 

In rural communities on the Pacific coast, the California towhee 
occupies a place similar to that of the robin in the east. It is quite 
domestic in habits, and not only is it a familiar sight about orchards 
and gardens, but it often builds its nest in the shrubbery and vines 
around the house. Its habits are somewhat more terrestrial than 
those of the robin, and the fruit it eats is largely that which it finds 
on the ground. Like the spotted towhee, it forages much under 
bushes and vines, scratching among the rubbish for food ; however, it 
does not confine itself to such places, but frequents also the open 
ground, looking for insects and seeds. At such times a pair are 
almost invariably seen together. The species does not migrate. 
One or other of its subspecies inhabits most of the valley and foot- 
hill country of California west of the Sierra Nevada and San Jacinto 

For the study of the bird's food 399 stomachs were available, col- 
lected in every month, with a fair number in each month. The first 
analysis gives 14.26 percent of animal food to 85.74 of vegetable. 
The animal food consists of insects and a few spiders, millepeds, and 
snails. The vegetable part is made up of fruit, grain, weed seeds, 
and a few miscellaneous substances. 

Animal food. — The largest item of the animal food consists of bee- 
tles, which amount to 5 percent. The predaceous ground beetles 
(Carabidse) were found in 30 stomachs, and were the only useful 
beetles eaten. Weevils, or snout beetles, were found in 55 stomachs, 
of which 1 contained 15. Among them was identified one speci- 
men of Calandra oryza, the rice weevil, an insect that does much harm 
to rice. A decidedly harmful species of chrysomelid beetle (Diabro- 
tica soror) was found in 43 stomachs. All the other beetles, which 
belong to several families, are harmful. While beetles were eaten in 
every month except December, the great bulk were taken from April 


to July, inclusive. In June they amount to nearly 15 percent, which 
is the highest for any month. 

Hymenoptera amount to less than 2 percent. They consist of ants 
found in 47 stomachs and bees or wasps in 23 stomachs. Hemiptera, 
or bugs, are eaten to a small extent in nearly every month, but do 
not reach a high percentage in any. The maximum, 6 percent, occurs 
in March. The average is barely 1 percent for the year. The favorite 
kinds appear to be leafhoppers, shield bugs, and stinkbugs. Black 
olive scales were found in 11 stomachs, and a second species, not 
identified, in 1. 

Caterpillars are eaten sparingly in every month. The amount for 
the year is 3.26 percent, and the maximum consumption, 8.5 percent, 
occurs in March. Pupae of the codling moth were found in 2 stom- 
achs. Grasshoppers and crickets amount to 2.5 percent for the year. 
In July they aggregate nearly 16 percent, which is a remarkably 
small amount for such a confirmed ground feeder as the towhee. 
They are eaten rather irregularly from April to October inclusive, 
with a trace in January. The remainder of the animal food, consist- 
ing of a few flies and other insects, spiders, millipeds, and snails, 
amounts to a little more than one-half of 1 percent. 

The following insects were identified in the stomachs: 


Brady cellus rupestris. Aphodius rubidus. 

Philonthus albionicus. Diabrotica soror. 

Tachyporus calif ornicus. Blapstinus pulverulentus. 

Hypnoides ornatus. Blapstinus rufipes. 

Ptilinus rujicornis. Notoxus alamedx. 

Aphodius rugifrons. Calandra oryza. 


Saissetia olex. 
Carpocapsa pomonella. 

Vegetable food. — Fruit was eaten in every month from April to 
October inclusive, and also in December and January. The total for 
the year is 4.4 percent of the food. The greatest quantity was taken 
in June, when it amounted to 9.3 percent. Fruit, consisting of pulp 
and skins without seeds, was contained in 24 stomachs, Rubus fruits 
(blackberries or raspberries) in 28, cherries in 4, strawberries in 3, 
and elderberries in 41. Thus the towhee does no great damage to 
fruit — in fact, the fruit eaten is mostly wild or that which has been 
injured and left on the ground. 

Grain is eaten regularly in every month and in a fair quantity. 
It amounts for the year to about 28 percent. The most is taken in 
fall and winter, though the variation is not very marked. August 
appears to be the month of greatest consumption, but it is doubtful 
if this would hold true if more stomachs were examined, as October 


is about the same. June shows a higher percentage than either May 
or July, which indicates that some of the grain was gathered from 
the harvest field. Oats were the favorite kind, found in 140 stom- 
achs. Barley was contained in 34, wheat in 16, and corn in 6. Six- 
teen stomachs were filled with grain alone, most of them with oats, 
but several with barley and one with corn. 

The towhee is another of those species whose standard food is weed 
seed. It amounts to nearly 51 percent of the yearly diet. Even in 
June, the month of least consumption, it amounts to one-fifth of the 
food, while in December it reaches its maximum, 83.6 percent; but 
a good percentage is eaten in every month, no matter what other food 
is at hand. 

Weed seed was found in 304 stomachs, and 46 contained nothing 
else. The quantity of this seed consumed by the towhees of Cali- 
fornia in one year must be enormous. The following are the species 
identified and the number of stomachs in which each was found: 

Sunflower (Helianthus sp.) 1 

Lesser tarweed (Hemizonia fasciculata) 7 

Tarweed ( Madia sativa) 34 

Mayweed (Anthemis cotula) 6 

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) 1 

Bur thistle ( Centaur ea melitensis) 39 

Burweed (AmsincJcia tesselata) ' 4 

Nightshade (Solarium nigrum) 22 

Plantain (Plantago lanceolata) 1 

Lupine (Lupinus sp.) 19 

Clover ( Trifolium sp.) 9 

Legumes not further identified 39 

Turkey mullein (Eremocarpos setigerus) 5 

Poison oak (Rhus diversiloba) 7 

Alfilaria (Erodium cicutarium) 55 

Geranium (Geranium dissectum) 1 

Yellow sorrel (Oxalis corniculata) 4 

Mustard (Brassica nigra) 10 

Poppy (Eschscholtzia californica) 2 

Miners' lettuce ( Montia perfoliata) 26 

Red maids ( Calandrinia menziesi) 4 

Pigweed ( Chenopodium album) I 1 

Rough pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus) 77 

Spurry (Spergula arvensis) 2 

Chickweed (Stellaria media) 27 

Catchfly (Silene sp.) 5 

Knotweed (Polygonum sp.) 40 

Sorrel (Rumex acetosella) 10 

Brome grass (Bromus sp.) 5 

Wild oats (Avenafatua) 33 

Canary seed (Phalaris canariensis) 1 

Panic grass (Panicum sp.) 1 

Unidentified 77 

Mast, in the shape of acorn meat, was taken to a slight extent. It 
reaches about one-half of 1 percent for the year. Vegetable rubbish 
aggregates 2.4 percent. 


Food of young. — Among the 399 stomachs already discussed were 
those of 16 nestlings. They consisted of one brood of 3 about 2 days 
old; 3 broods, 9 in all, about 10 days old; and one brood of 4, probably 
2 weeks old. The three youngest ones had been fed entirely on animal 
food, mostly grasshoppers, caterpillars, and spiders, with a few bugs. 
The 9 next in age had been fed animal matter to an average extent 
of 92 percent, to 8 percent of vegetable food. The animal food 
differs in proportions, not in constituents, from that taken by the 
adults. It is composed mainly of grasshoppers and caterpillars, 
with a few beetles, bugs, and wasps. The vegetable matter contains 
a little fruit, but the greater part is made up of wads or tangles of 
vegetable fibers. In one stomach the tangle consisted of horsehair. 
The same fact has been noted with the young of other species. The 
four that were 2 weeks old had been fed 95 percent of animal food 
and 5 percent of vegetable matter. The animal part is not so largely 
composed of grasshoppers, caterpillars, and spiders as with the 
younger birds, but beetles, wasps, and ants are more prominent. 
All of them contained remains of the beetle Diabrotica soror to an 
average extent of nearly 33 percent. Every one of these 4 stomachs 
contained a tangle of vegetable fibers, which constituted the whole 
of the vegetable food except one seed. 

Some observations were made upon the feeding of nestlings of this 
species. It was found that the young are not fed as often as those 
of some other species, but probably get more at each feeding. The 
parent visiting the nest to feed the young gives food to all of them 
before leaving, and evidently regurgitates it from the gullet for this 
purpose. As the result of watching two nests for several hours, the 
maximum number of feedings in one hour was found to be 6, but 
from 2 to 4 was nearer the average. During the intervals between 
the feedings the parents could be seen hopping about on the ground 
and in the shrubbery searching for food, with which they appeared to 
gorge themselves, for caterpillars and other insects could be seen 
projecting from their bills. Both parents took part in the feeding, 
though when the nestlings were very young one bird stayed near or 
upon the nest until the other came, when they exchanged work. 


The little animal food the California towhee eats is mostly of an 
injurious character. While eminently a ground feeder, it does not 
eat more of the predaceous ground beetles (Carabidse) than other 
birds less terrestrial in their habits, and no more than a due propor- 
tion. In its vegetable food it probably does little, if any, damage. 
The amount of fruit eaten is small, and is mostly either damaged or 
wild. While it eats considerable grain, the great bulk is taken in the 
fall and winter months. Probably it does not visit the harvest fields 
much, for although a ground frequenter, it likes the presence of trees 


and bushes. The service it performs in destroying the seeds of weeds 
should be sufficient to cover a number of sins, but fortunately there 
are none serious enough for consideration. 


(Zamelodia melanocephala.) 

During the six months from April to September inclusive, the 
black-headed grosbeak occurs throughout the State of California, 
excepting the arid deserts and boreal mountain summits. Like its 
eastern relative, the rose-breasted grosbeak, it takes readily to 
orchards and gardens, and is common in agricultural districts. It is 
a bird of beautiful plumage and sweet song, and is a welcome addi- 
tion to the attractions of rural life. It often nests in orchard trees, 
and, as is perfectly natural, gets much of its food there. While this 
consists mainly of harmful insects, a goodly part of it is fruit. The 
grosbeak, as its name indicates, has a very powerful bill, and has no 
difficulty in cutting the skin of the firmest fruit. It feeds upon cher- 
ries, apricots, and similar fruits to a considerable extent, but on the 
other hand it habitually consumes some of the worst insect pests, 
such as the black olive scale, the 12-spotted diabrotica, and the 
codling moth. The destruction of this trio alone should entitle the 
bird to great consideration, but it eats also other destructive insects. 

For the laboratory investigation of this bird's food 225 stomachs 
were accessible. They were collected in the six months from April 
to September inclusive, a fair number in each, except the last, when 
only 3 were obtained. These stomachs contained about 57 percent 
of animal matter to 43 of vegetable. The animal matter is composed 
of insects and spiders, with a few traces of vertebrates. Insects, such 
as beetles, scales, and caterpillars, constituted nearly 53 of the 57 
percent of animal food. 

Animal food. — Of the animal food, beetles are the largest item. 
They were found in 190 of the 225 stomachs. Of these, predatory 
ground beetles (Carabidse) were found in 16 stomachs, and ladybird 
beetles (Coccinellidse) in 2. To offset the destruction of these useful 
insects, the 12-spotted diabrotica, which often does serious injury to 
fruit trees, was found in 109 stomachs. Many weevils were found, 
and great numbers of several species of leaf beetles (Chrysomelidae). 
To this family belongs the notorious Colorado potato beetle, which 
at one time seemed likely to ruin the potato industry of the East. 
The bird which attacked this pest constantly and systematically was 
the rose-breasted grosbeak, a near relative of the one under considera- 
tion. When the potato beetle finds its way into California, as even- 
tually it undoubtedly will, the black-headed grosbeak is the bird most 
likely to become its active enemy. 

Hymenoptera in the form of bees and wasps with a few ants aggre- 
gate less than 2 percent. A worker honeybee was found in one 


stomach. Scale insects amount to 19.83 percent, or practically one- 
fifth of the whole food. Most of these were the black olive scale 
(Saissetia olex), but a few were the plum and prune scales (Lecanium 
corni and L. pruinosum). So persistently are scales eaten by this 
bird that they were found in 142 of the 225 stomachs, or 63 percent 
of all. While they did not entirely fill any stomach, in 26 they equaled 
or exceeded 50 percent of the contents. Hemiptera other than scales 
amount to a trifle over 1 percent. 

Caterpillars, pupae, and a few moths aggregate 7.7 percent. They 
were mostly eaten in April and May. Pupae or larvae of the codling 
moth were found in 26 stomachs, one stomach containing the remains 
of 29. Flies, grasshoppers, a few other insects, spiders, and miscel- 
laneous creatures make up somewhat more than 1 percent. Egg- 
shells were found in several stomachs and the bones of a small fish 
in one. The animal food of the grosbeak, it will be observed, is 
nearly all included in the 3 items, beetles, scales, and caterpillars. 
The other substances appear to be eaten merely as makeshifts. 

Following are the insects identified in the stomachs of the gros- 


Platynus variolatus. Syneta albida. 

Rhizobius centralis. Gastroidea cyanea. 

Psyllobora taedata. Gastroidea sp. 

Megapenthes elegans. Lina scripta. 

Buprestis fasciata. Diabrotica soror. 

Podabrus sp. Diabrotica trivittata. 

Telephorus consors. Blapstinus sp. 

Telephones divisus. Deporaus glastinus. 

Telephorus sp. Scythropus calif ornicus. 

Aphodius rugifrons. Dorytomus hispidulus. 

Aphodius sp. Baris sp. 

Leptura militaris. Balaninus sp. 


Saissetia olesc. Lecanium corni. 

Lecanium pruinosum. 


Carpocapsa pomonella. 


Apis mellifera. 9 


Borborus sp. 

Vegetable food. — Cultivated fruit amounts to 23 percent of the 
grosbeak's food for the six months that it stays in the North. None 
was found in the stomachs taken in April, but in all other months 
there was a good percentage. Cherries appear to be the favorite 
fruit, as they were contained in 42 stomachs. Figs were identified 
in 24 stomachs, blackberries or raspberries in 23, strawberries in 2 ; 


apricots in 1, and prunes in 1. Fruit pulp, not further identified, 
but probably of the larger kinds, was found in 25 stomachs. During 
cherry season these birds were almost constantly in the trees eating 
cherries. They do not appear to attack apricots, peaches, and prunes 
so extensively, but they feed freely on figs later in the season. 
Blackberries and raspberries are taken whenever possible, but mostly 
in July and August, after cherries are gone. There is no denying 
the fact that the grosbeak eats much fruit, and of the best kinds. 
Wild fruit amounts to something over 5 percent. All of it was 
eaten in the four months from May to August inclusive, but princi- 
pally in July and August. The only wild fruit identified was the 
elderberry (Sambucus), which constitutes the bulk of this item, and 
was found in 26 stomachs. 

Seeds of various weeds and some grain constitute 14.7 percent of 
the food. Oats were found in 9 stomachs and wheat in 7, but the 
amount was insignificant. The rest of the vegetable food consists 
of the seeds of more or less troublesome weeds, of which the gros- 
beak eats a very considerable quantity. The following is a list of 
the species identified and the number of stomachs in which each 
was found : 

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) 5 

Nightshade (Solarium nigrum) 1 

Bur clover ( Medicago lanceolata) 2 

Poison oak (Rhus diversiloba) 1 

Sumac (Rhus sp.) 1 

Alfilaria (Erodium cicutarium) 12 

Geranium (Geranium dissectum) 13 

Dwarf mallow ( Malva rotundifolia) 1 

Red maids ( Calandrinia menziesi) 6 

Rough pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus) 3 

Chickweed (Stellaria media) 13 

Knotweed (Polygonum sp.) 2 

Sorrel (Rumex acetosella) 1 

Unidentified 24 

Food of young. — Among these stomachs are those of 17 nestlings, 
varying in age from 2 to 8 days. The youngest brood, composed of 
3, had been fed entirely on beetles, Hymenoptera, and caterpillars. 
For convenience, codling moth pupae may be separated from other 
caterpillars. The average percentage of each was as follows: 
Beetles 0.7, Hymenoptera 0.7, caterpillars 92.3, codling moth pupae 
6.3. Note the large percentage of soft food in the shape of cater- 
pillars and pupae. Broods 2 and 3 were composed of 3 and 4 nestlings 
respectively, and were probably about 1 day older than brood 1. 
Their stomachs were entirely filled with animal food, divided as 
follows: Beetles 15 percent, caterpillars 55.4 percent, codling moth 
pupae 23 percent, scales 2.6 percent, and other insects and spiders 4 
percent. These nestlings had been fed with hard beetles to a much 


greater extent than brood 1, although only 1 day older. Brood 4 
was composed of 4 nestlings about a week old. They had been fed 
on animal matter to the extent of 96 percent to 4 percent of vegetable. 
The animal food was divided as follows: Beetles 67.6 percent, Hyme- 
noptera 3 percent, caterpillars 2 percent, scales 20.7 percent, and 
eggshells 2.7 percent. The vegetable matter consisted of hulls of 
seeds and rubbish. The increase in beetles and other hard food and 
the decrease in caterpillars in the diet of this brood, as compared 
with the younger ones, is very marked. Brood 5 contained 3 young, 
estimated to be 8 days old. These had been fed entirely on animal 
food, made up of the following elements: Beetles 82 percent, Hyme- 
noptera 10 percent, scales 6.3 percent, larvse 3.3 percent, insects' 
eggs 1.7 percent, and spiders 2.7 percent. Another increase in the 
hard elements of the food over the last is seen here, although the 
difference in age is presumed to be only a day. 

Observations were made upon the feeding of nestling grosbeaks, 
but the results are not remarkable. A nest of 3 young, estimated to 
be about 3 days old when first seen, was watched for one-hour periods 
for several days. The number of feedings varied from 2 to 4 per 
hour. In this respect the grosbeaks much resemble the California 
towhee. Like that bird they evidently collect a lot of food and then 
supply all the nestlings by regurgitation. 


In summing up the economic status of the black-headed grosbeak, 
the fact that it eats a considerable quantity of orchard fruit can not 
be ignored. That this fruit is taken from the ripening crop on the 
tree is also true. This, however, is the sum total of the grosbeak's 
sinning. It eats but few useful insects and practically no grain. To 
offset its fruit eating, it eats habitually and freely the black olive 
scale, the codling moth, and the 12-spotted diabrotica, three pests of 
California fruit culture. Comparatively few complaints have been 
made against this bird by orchardists, and its depredations are not 
believed to be serious. Should it ever become so plentiful as to cause 
serious loss, no attempts should be made to destroy the bird, but at- 
tention should be directed to devices for protecting the fruit, thus 
leaving the bird to continue its good work in the destruction of insects. 
So active an enemy of insect pests as is this grosbeak can not well be 
spared, especially in view of the possibility of an invasion of the 
State by the Colorado potato beetle. a 

a For further information on the food of the grosbeak, see Bull. 32, Biological Sur- 
vey, Food Habits of Grosbeaks, by W. L. McAtee, 1908. 


Issued October 6, 1910. 




H. W. HENSHAW, Chief ■ • 

i— OCT 12 1910 





Assistant, Biological Survey 




Issued October 6, 1910. 



H. W. HENSHAW, Chief 




Assistant, Biological Survey 





U. S. Department of Agriculture, 

Biological Survey, . 
Washington, D. C, June 22, 1910. 
Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith, for publication as 
Bulletin No. 35 of the Biological Survey, a report on the Distribution 
and Migration of North American Shorebirds, by Wells W. Cooke, 
assistant, Biological Survey. Many species of shorebirds inhabit the 
United States or pass through our territory in migration. These 
birds possess considerable economic importance, and as other wild 
game like ducks, geese, and swans diminish in numbers their value 
for food and as a means for sport will increase. Large numbers are 
annually killed, and unless prompt measures are taken adequately 
to protect them some of the larger and more important kinds are 
likely to become extinct, especially in the region east of the Missis- 
sippi River. A knowledge of the summer and winter abodes of the 
several species and of the routes they take in migration is essential to 
intelligent legislation in their behalf, and, accordingly, all the known 
facts in regard to this part of their life history are here brought 

Respectfully, H. W. Henshaw, 

Chief, Biological Survey. 
Hon. James Wilson, 

Secretary of Agriculture. 



Introduction 5 

Distribution 6 

Migration 10 

North American shorebirds 14 

Red phalarope 14 

Northern phalarope 16 

Wilson phalarope 18 

Avocet 19 

Black-necked stilt 20 

European woodcock ■. 21 

Woodcock 21 

European snipe 23 

Wilson snipe 23 

Great snipe 26 

Dowitcher 26 

Long-billed dowitcher 28 

Stilt sandpiper 29 

Knot 31 

Purple sandpiper 33 

Aleutian sandpiper 34 

Pribilof sandpiper 34 

Sharp-tailed sandpiper 34 

Pectoral sandpiper ; 35 

White-rumped sandpiper 37 

Baird sandpiper 39 

Least sandpiper 41 

Long-toed stint 42 

Cooper sandpiper * 43 

Dunlin 43 

Red-backed sandpiper 43 

Curlew sandpiper 45 

Spoon-bill sandpiper 45 

Semipalmated sandpiper 46 

Western sandpiper 47 

Sanderling 48 

Marbled godwit 50 

Pacific godwit 51 

Hudsonian godwit 52 

Black-tailed godwit 53 

Green-shank 54 

Common red-shank 54 

Greater yellow-legs 54 

Yellow-legs 56 

Solitary sandpiper 58 

Western solitary sandpiper 60 

Green sandpiper 61 

Wood sandpiper 61 

Willet 61 



North American shorebirds — Continued. Page. 

Western willet 62 

Wandering tattler 63 

Ruff 64 

Upland plover 64 

Buff-breasted sandpiper 67 

Spotted sandpiper 69 

Long-billed curlew 71 

Hudsonian curlew 72 

Eskimo curlew ' 74 

European curlew 76 

Whimbrel 77 

Bristle-thighed curlew 77 

Lapwing 77 

Dotterel 77 

Black-bellied plover * 78 

European golden plover '. 79 

Golden plover 80 

Pacific golden plover 85 

Killdeer 85 

Santo Domingo killdeer 88 

Semipalmated plover 88 

Ringed plover 90 

Little ringed plover 90 

Piping plover 91 

Snowy plover , 92 

Mongolian plover 93 

Azara ring plover 93 

Wilson plover 93 

Rufous-naped plover 94 

Mountain plover 94 

Surf bird 95 

Turnstone 96 

Ruddy turnstone 97 

Black turnstone 98 

European oyster-catcher 99 

Oyster-catcher 99 

Frazar oyster-catcher 99 

Black oyster-catcher 100 

Stone curlew 100 

Mexican jacana 100 

Black jacana 100 

Colombian jacana 100 



Plate I. Yellow-legs ( Totanus flavipes) 56 

II. Upland plover (Bartramia longicauda) 64 

III. Spotted sandpiper (Actitis macularia) 68 

IV. Killdeer (Oxyechus vociferus) 84 




Shorebirds form a valuable national resource, and it is the plain 
duty of the present generation to pass on to posterity this asset 
undiminished in value. Consistent and intelligent legislation in 
favor of any group of birds must be founded on extended, accurate 
information, and must include knowledge of the breeding and distri- 
bution of the birds — where they spend the summer, whither they 
retire in winter, and when and by what routes they migrate. The 
present bulletin supplies this needed information so far as it is now 

Consideration of our shorebirds (Limicolse) from an economic point 
of view is recent. The early settlers found ducks, geese, and swans 
swarming in certain sections of the United States, and grouse and 
turkeys very abundant. The size and toothsomeness of these birds 
made them important objects of pursuit for food, while the shore- 
birds were considered unworthy of notice. As the great flocks of 
ducks and geese along the Atlantic coast diminished in numbers, the 
attention of gunners, especially of market hunters, was turned to 
the shorebirds, then in countless numbers. A generation of constant 
harassment spring and fall has almost exterminated some of the 
larger species and has very greatly reduced even the smaller ones. 
The time has come when this indiscriminate slaughter must cease if 
the present remnant of the shorebirds is to be preserved. 

The range of our shorebirds extends from ocean to ocean, so that 
all parts of the United States have an interest in their preservation. 
These birds feed naturally in the open country or along the open 
shore, where they are easily found and are constantly subject to 
attack. The prairies of the Mississippi Valley in past years formed 
the great highway of spring migration. Flock followed flock in 
almost endless succession across the prairies of Kansas, Nebraska, 
and the Dakotas, over a region that of late years has passed under 
the plow. As this area becomes more densely populated the shore- 
birds, once so abundant, are likely to become extinct unless active 
measures are taken for their preservation. 

There are excellent reasons for protecting and preserving the 
shorebirds. Some of them, especially the several kinds of plovers, 




perform important service in destroying noxious insects. The flesh 
of many of them, even of the smaller kinds, has a high food value, 
and some of the larger species — the upland, golden, and black-bellied 
plovers, and the curlews — were in the times of their abundance 
important articles of diet. Their pursuit for sport, when they are 
shot over decoys, demands a high degree of skill, and is a favorite pas- 
time of many hunters. Nor should the esthetic side of the question be 
ignored. The graceful forms and motions of these birds as they feed 
at the edge of the breakers are an interesting sight to thousands of 
seashore visitors. The silencing of their melodious calls would be a 
loss to every lover of nature. Finally, it may be said in their favor 
that not one of the shorebirds ever does any harm, while many have 
proved of great value to agriculture. Their accounts have only a 
credit side. 

The shorebirds are among the most widely distributed of all birds. 
As far to the northward as man has found land shorebirds breed, 
while in winter they visit the tropical and Antarctic shores. The 
distances traversed in their migrations probably average greater 
than those of any other family, and the shorebirds probably exceed 
all others in the number of miles traveled in a single flight. 


The shorebirds are represented in North America by 76 species 
and 9 subspecies, a total of 85 recognized forms; but the following 7 
of these do not range so far north as the United States : 

Southern Species not Ranging North to the United States. 

Rufous-naped plover (Ochthodromus wil- 

sonius rufinuchus). 
Stone curlew (CEdicnemus bistriatus). 
Colombian jacana (Parra melanopygia). 
Black jacana (Parra nigra). 

Cayenne lapwing (Hoploxypterus cay anus) . 
Azara ring plover (JEgialitis collaris). 
Santo Domingo killdeer (Oxyechus vocif- 
erus torquatus). 

There remain 78 species and subspecies that occur in the United 
States and northward, but 5 of these are found only in Greenland, 
as follows : 

European Species Occurring in North America only in Greenland. 

European snipe (Gallinago gallinago). 
Black- tailed god wit (Limosa limosa). 
Whimbrel (Numenius 

Golden plover (Charadrius apricanus). 
Oyster-catcher (Hxmatopus ostralegus). 

Fifteen other species from the Eastern Hemisphere are known 
as stragglers on the mainland of North America : 

Stragglers in North America from the Eastern Hemisphere. 

European woodcock (Scolopax rusticola). 

Great snipe (Gallinago media) . 

Long- toed stint (Pisobia damacensis) . 

Dunlin (Pelidna alpina). 

Curlew sandpiper (Erolia ferruginea) . 

Spoon-bill sandpiper (Eurynorhynchus 

Green-shank (Glottis nebularia). 

Red-shank (Totanus totanus). 
Green sandpiper (Helodromas ocrophus). 
Wood sandpiper (Rhyacophilus glareola). 
Ruff (Pavoncella pugnax). 
Lapwing ( Vanellus vanellus). 
Dotterel (Eudromias morinellus) . 
Little ringed plover (JEgialitis dubia). 
Mongolian plover (Mgialitis mongola). 


Deducting these, there are 58 species of shorebirds that belong to 
the regular avifauna of North America north of Mexico. Not all of 
these, however, occur in the United States. The sharp-tailed sand- 
piper is a regular migrant through Alaska, but is not found elsewhere 
in North America. The Pacific godwit, bristle-thighed curlew, and 
Pacific golden plover breed in Alaska and migrate thence to Asia and 
the Pacific islands. The ringed plover breeds in northeastern North 
America and migrates to Europe. The turnstone breeds in both 
northeastern and northwestern Arctic America, but migrates to 
Europe, Asia, and the Pacific islands without coming regularly to 
the United States; while the Aleutian and the Pribilof sandpipers 
both breed and winter in Alaska. A further deduction of these 8 
species leaves 50 species which regularly visit the United States 
during some part of the year. 

The shorebirds as a group are far northern breeders. The ma- 
jority of them breed in the region of the Arctic Circle, and several 
range north to the known limits of land. The majority do not breed 
so far south as the United States, and hence are known there only as 
migrants, or in the winter season. 

Species that Breed Wholly North of the United States. 

Red phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius) . 
Northern phalarope (Lobipes lobatus). 
Dowitcher (Macrorhamphus griseus). 
Long-billed dowitcher ( Macrorhamphus 

griseus scolopaceus) . 
Stilt sandpiper {Micropalama himanto- 

Knot ( Tringa canutus). 
Purple sandpiper (Arquatella maritima). 
Aleutian sandpiper {Arquatella maritima 

Pribilof sandpiper (Arquatella maritima 

Sharp-tailed sandpiper (Pisobia aurita). 
Pectoral sandpiper (Pisobia maculata). 
White-rumped sandpiper (Pisobia fusci- 

Baird sandpiper (Pisobia bairdi). 
Least sandpiper (Pisobia minutilla). 
Red-backed sandpiper (Pelidna alpina 

Semipalmated sandpiper (Ereunetes pu- 

Western sandpiper (Ereunetes mauri). 
Sanderling (Calidris leucophxa). 

Pacific godwit (Limosa lapponica baueri). 
Hudsonian godwit (Limosa hsemastica). 
Greater yellow-legs (Totanus melanoleu- 

Yellow-legs (Totanus flavipes). 
Wandering tattler (Heteractitis incanus). 
Buff-breasted sandpiper (Tryngites subru- 

Hudsonian curlew (Numenius hudsonicus) . 
Eskimo curlew (Numenius borealis). 
Bristle-thighed curlew (Numenius tahiti- 

Black-bellied plover (Squatarola squata- 

Golden plover (Charadrius dominicus). 
Pacific golden plover ( Charadrius domini- 
cus fulvus). 
Semipalmated plover (Mgialilis semipal- 

Ringed plover (Mgialitis hiaticula). 
Surf bird (Aphriza virgata). 
Turnstone (Arenaria interpres). 
Ruddy turnstone (Arenaria interpres mo- 

Black turnstone (Arenaria melanocephala) . 

Species that Breed in Both the United States and Canada. 

Wilson phalarope (Steganopus tricolor). 
Avocet (Recurvirostra americana). 
Woodcock (Philohela minor). 
Wilson snipe (Gallinago delicata). 
Marbled godwit (Limosa fedoa) . 
Solitary sandpiper (Helodromas solitar- 

Western solitary sandpiper (Helodromas 

sa litarius cinnamomeus ) . 
Willet (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus) . 

Western willet (Catoptrophorus semipal- 
matus inornatus). 

Upland plover (Bartramia longicauda). 

Spotted sandpiper (Actitis macularia). 

Long-billed curlew (Numenius america- 

Killdeer (Oxyechus vociferus). 

Piping plover (Mgialitis meloda). 

Black oyster-catcher (Hxmatopus bach- 
mani) . 


Species that do not Breed North op the United States, 
Limit op Breeding Range. 

with Northern 

Black-necked stilt (Himantopus mexica- 

nus), Oregon. 
Snowy plover (Mgialitis nivosa), Nevada. 
Wilson plover (Ochthodromus wilsonius), 

Mountain plover (Podasocys montanus), 


Oyster-catcher (Hxmatopus palliatus), 

South Carolina. 
Frazar oyster-catcher (Hxmatopus fra- 

zari), California. 
Mexican jacana (Jacana spinosa), Texas. 

Species that Breed Chiefly North of the Arctic Circle, with the Northern- 
most Latitude at Which the Species has been Observed in the Western 

Red phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius), 

Northern phalarope (Lobipes lobatus), 74°. 
Long-billed dowitcher (Macrorhamphus 

griseus scolopaceus), 71°. 
Stilt sandpiper (Micropalama himanto- 
pus), 69°. 
Knot (Tringa canutus), 83°. 
Purple sandpiper (Arquatella maritima), 

Pectoral sandpiper (Pisobia maculata), 

White-rumped sandpiper (Pisobia fusci- 

collis), 69°. 
Baird sandpiper (Pisobia bairdi), 71°. 
Least sandpiper (Pisobia minutilla), 70°. 
Red-backed sandpiper (Pelidna alpina 

sakhalina), 72°. 
Semipalmated sandpiper (Ereunetes pusil- 

lus), 71°. 

Sanderling (Calidris leucophsea), 82°. 
Hudsonian godwit (Limosa hsemastica) , 

Buff -breasted sandpiper ( Tryngites subru- 

ficollis), 71°. 
Hudsonian curlew (Numenius hudsoni- 

cus), 69°. 
Eskimo curlew (Numenius borealis), 69°. 
Black-bellied plover (Squatarola squata- 
rola), 71°. 
Golden plover (Charadrius dominions), 

Pacific golden plover (Charadrius domini- 

cusfulvus), 65°. 
Semipalmated plover (Mgialitis semipal- 

mata), 75°. 
Ringed plover (Mgialitis hiaticula), 78°. 
Turnstone (Arenaria interpres), 83°. 
Ruddy turnstone (Arenaria interpres mori- 

nella), 74°. 

Species that Breed in Both Eastern and Western Hemispheres. 

Red phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius). 

Northern phalarope (Lobipes lobatus). 

Knot (Tringa canutus). 

Purple sandpiper (Arquatella maritima). 

Sanderling (Calidris leucophsea). 

Pacific godwit (Limosa lapponica baueri). 

Black-bellied plover (Squatarola squata- 

Pacific golden plover (Charadrius domini- 

Ringed plover (JEgialitis hiaticula). 

Turnstone (Arenaria interpres). 

Species that Winter in the United States and Southward. 

Avocet (Recurvirostra americana). 
Black-necked stilt (Himantopus mexi- 

Woodcock (Philohela minor). 
Wilson snipe (Gallinago delicata). 
Dowitcher ( Macrorhamphus griseus) . 
Long-billed dowitcher (Macrorhamphus 

griseus scolopaceus) . 
Purple sandpiper (Arquatella maritima). 
Least sandpiper (Pisobia minutilla). 
Red-backed sandpiper (Pelidna alpina 

Semipalmated sandpiper (Ereunetes pusil- 

Western sandpiper (Ereunetes mauri). 
Sanderling (Calidris leucophxa). 
Marbled godwit (Limosa fedoa) . 
Greater yellow-legs (Totanus melano- 

Yellow-legs (Totanus fiavipes) . 
Western willet (Catoptrophorus semipal- 

matus inornatus). 

Spotted sandpiper (Actitis macularia). 

Long-billed curlew (Numenius ameri- 

Black-bellied plover (Squatarola squat- 

Killdeer (Oxyechus vociferus). 

Semipalmated plover (Mgialitis semipal- 

Piping plover (Mgialitis meloda). 

Snowy plover (Mgialitis nivosa). 

Wilson plover (Ochthodromus wilsonius). 

Mountain plover (Podasocys montanus). 

Ruddy turnstone (Arenaria interpres 

Black turnstone (Arenaria melanocephala) . 

Oyster-catcher (Hsematopus palliatus). 

Frazar oyster-catcher (Hsematopus fra- 

Black oyster-catcher (Hsematopus bach- 
mani) . 

Mexican jacana (Jacana spinosa). 



Species that do not Winter North op South America. 

Red phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius) . 
Northern phalarope (Lobipes lobatus). 
Wilson phalarope (Steganopus tricolor). 
Stilt sandpiper( Micropalama himantopus) . 
Knot ( Tringa canutus). 
Pectoral sandpiper (Pisobia maculata) . 
White-rumped sandpiper (Pisobia fusci- 

Baird sandpiper (Pisobia bairdi). 
Hudsonian godwit (Limosa hsemastica). 

Solitary sandpiper (Helodromas solitarius) . 
Western solitary sandpiper (Helodromas 

solitarius cinnamomeus). 
Upland plover (Bartramia longicauda). 
Buff-breasted sandpiper (Tryngites sub- 

Eskimo curlew (Numenius borealis). 
Golden plover (Charadrius dominions). 
Surf bird (Aphriza virgata). 

The three following species winter in the West Indies or Central 
America and southward, but are not found at this season in the United 
States : Willet (CatoptropJiorus semipalmatus) , wandering tattler (Heter- 
actitis incanus), and Hudsonian curlew (Numenius Jiudsonicus) . The 
purple sandpiper (Arquatella maritima) remains in winter as far north 
as Greenland and does not range south of the United States; while 
the Aleutian sandpiper (Arquatella maritima couesi) and the Pribilof 
sandpiper (Arquatella maritima ptilocnemis) do not occur in winter 
south of Alaska. 

Species that Range South in Winter to South America, with the Southern 
Limit of the Winter Range. 

Red phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius), 

Falkland Islands. 
Northern phalarope (Lobipes lobatus), 

Peru and probably farther. 
Wilson phalarope (Steganopus tricolor), 

Falkland Islands. 
Black-necked stilt (Himantopus mexi- 

canus), Peru. 
Dowi tcher (Macrorhamphus griseus), 

Long-billed dowitcher ( Macrorhamphus 

griseus scolopaceus) , probably Peru. 
Stilt sandpiper (Micropalama himanto- 
pus) .Uruguay. 
Knot (Tringa canutus), Tierra del Fuego. 
Pectoral sandpiper (Pisobia maculata), 

White-rumped sandpiper (Pisobia fusci- 

collis), Tierra del Fuego. 
Baird sandpiper (Pisobia bairdi), Chile. 
Least sandpiper (Pisobia minutilla), 

Semipalmated sandpiper (Ereunetes pusil- 

lus), Patagonia. 
Western sandpiper (Ereunetes mauri), 

Sanderling (Calidris leucophsea), Argen- 
Hudsonian godwit (Limosa hsemastica), 

Strait of Magellan. 
Greater yellow-legs (Totanus melanoleu- 

cus), Strait of Magellan. 

Yellow-legs (Totanus flavipes), Strait of 

Solitary sandpiper (Helodromas solitarius), 

Western solitary sandpiper (Helodromas 

solitarius cinnamomeus), not known. 
Willet (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus), 

Upland plover (Bartramia longicauda), 

Buff-breasted sandpiper ( Tryngites sub- 

ruficollis), Argentina. 
Spotted sandpiper (Actitis macularia), 

Hudsonian curlew (Numenius hudsoni- 

cus), Chile. 
Eskimo curlew (Numenius borealis), Pata- 
Black-bellied plover (Squatarola squa- 

tarola), Peru. 
Golden plover (Charadrius dominicus), 

Semipalmated plover (Mgialitis semipal- 

mata), Argentina. 
Snowy plover (Mgialitis nivosa), Chile. 
Surf bird (Aphriza virgata), Chile. 
Ruddy turnstone (Arenaria interpres mo- 

rinella), Chile. 
O vster - catcher ( Hsematopus palliatus) , 




Species that Occur in the United States Only as Migrants, Breeding in the 
Far North and Wintering to the Southward. 

Red phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius) . 
Northern phalarope (Lobipes lobatus). 
Stilt sandpiper (Micropalama himantopus). 
Knot ( Tringa canutus) . 
Pectoral sandpiper (Pisobia maculata). 
White-rumped sandpiper (Pisobia fusci- 

Baird sandpiper (Pisobia bairdi). 

Hudsonian godwit (Limosa hsemastica) . 
Buff -breasted sandpiper (Tryngites sub- 

Hudsonian curlew (Numenius hudsoni- 

Eskimo curlew (Numenius borealis). 
Golden plover (Charadrius dominicus). 
Surf bird (Aphriza virgata). 


Species that do not breed north of the United States 

Species breeding in the United States and Canada 

Total species breeding in the United States 

Species breeding wholly north of the United States 

Species breeding north of and wintering in the United States 

Species breeding or wintering in the United States ., 

Species occuring in the United States as migrants only 

Total species occurring in. the United States 

Species occurring regularly in Arctic America, but not in the United States. . 

Total species occurring regularly in North America north of Mexico 

European species straggling to Greenland 

Eastern Hemisphere species straggling to North America 

Southern species not ranging north to the United States 

Total species and subspecies in North America 







The shorebirds as a group are among the most wide ranging of 
migrants. While a few, for example the jacanas, do not migrate at 
all, most shorebirds migrate more than a thousand miles each season, 
and many lengthen their journeys to 7,000 miles. The most wonder- 
ful feature of their migration is the enormous distance covered in a 
single flight. As explained in the account of the golden plover, many 
flocks of plover fly without resting from Nova Scotia to northern 
South America, a distance of about 2,500 miles. Many individuals 
of other species perform the same flight, notably the Eskimo curlew, 
while in the case of the Hudsonian godwit and the upland plover 
the principal place of departure in fall migration is the coast of the 
United States north of Virginia, and many of the flocks make stops 
in the Lesser Antilles on their way to South America. 

That the same route is employed by other species is shown by the 
large number of shorebirds annually visiting the Bermudas. These 
islands lie about 800 miles off the coast of South Carolina and are 
in a nearly direct line from southern Nova Scotia to the Lesser Antilles. 
Years ago, when shorebirds were far more numerous than now, man}^ 
flocks stopped at the Bermudas in fall migration. The most common 
species were the pectoral, white-rumped, least, and semipalmated 
sandpipers, the sanderling, greater yellow-legs, lesser yellow-legs, 
solitary sandpiper, spotted sandpiper, Hudsonian curlew, semipal- 
mated plover, turnstone, and Wilson snipe. All of these came in 
sufficient numbers to show that their visits were not accidental, and 
evidently they had merely paused a few days on their journey to the 
Lesser Antilles. The killdeer appeared regularly in November and 


remained through the winter, but since this species scarcely goes 
north of New England, the individuals wintering on the Bermudas 
must have visited the islands for the purpose of remaining there 
through the cold season. Specimens of eleven other species of shore- 
birds have been taken in the Bermudas. They are less common vis- 
itors, and most of these individuals were probably on their way across 
the ocean to the Lesser Antilles. 

This route, however, is not followed by these species in their return 
in the spring, and there seems to be no evidence as yet that any 
species of shorebird migrates regularly in the spring across the ocean 
from the Lesser Antilles to the coast of New England or to eastern 
Canada. Indeed, shorebirds migrating north in spring through the 
Lesser Antilles are almost unknown. 

Along the Atlantic coast shorebirds are many times more numerous 
in fall than in spring, while in the Mississippi Valley there is no such 
pronounced difference of numbers at the two seasons. This fact, 
taken in connection with the rarity of all species of shorebirds during 
the spring migration in the West Indies, where they are abundant fall 
visitors, seems to indicate that in the case of most of the species of 
shorebirds that migrate south in fall along the Atlantic coast some 
individuals pass northward in spring by way of the Mississippi Val- 
ley. The Eskimo curlew used to follow this route, as still do most 
of the golden plover. The statement applies also largety to the 
long-billed dowitcher, stilt, white-rumped, and semipalmated sand- 
pipers, and the lesser yellow-legs. This elliptical migration route 
is in the case of most species not less than 6,000 miles in its north and 
south diameter, nor less than 2,000 miles east and west, while the 
winter home of the white-rumped sandpiper is 9,000 miles from its 
breeding grounds. 

The Hawaiian Islands lie in the Pacific Ocean 2,000 miles from the 
nearest mainland to the eastward and more than 3,000 miles from the 
Asiatic coast. The nearest point of Alaska is about 2,000 miles north. 
Five species of shorebirds that summer in Alaska are found in the 
Hawaiian Islands during the winter season. They are the turnstone, 
Pacific golden plover, sanderling, bristle-thighed curlew, and wander- 
ing tattler. There is every reason to believe that these Hawaiian 
birds come from Alaska and that they make the 2,000-mile trip at a 
single flight. All of these species occur farther south in Oceania, 
but there seems to be no evidence that any of them use the Hawaiian 
Islands as a stopping place on the way to a more southern home. Ap- 
parently all the birds that fly to the Hawaiian Islands remain there 
through the winter, while the southern islands of Oceania are popu- 
lated by individuals that have migrated along the Asiatic coast. 
It is remarkable that in the case of both the turnstone and the 
plover the first individuals to arrive on the Hawaiian Islands in 
the fall are in good condition or even fat, while the curlew and plover 


that reach the Lesser Antilles by a long flight over the Atlantic Ocean 
are reported as emaciated. 

Shorebirds present some idiosyncrasies of migration that are worthy 
of mention. The sharp-tailed sandpiper (Pisobia aurita) breeds 
on the northern coast of Siberia, and in fall migration crosses to 
Alaska and then back again to Asia and by way of Japan and China 
reaches its winter home in Australia. The most eastern point of its 
range in Alaska — Norton Sound — is some 500 miles east of its summer 
home in Siberia. As the species is not known in Alaska in spring, 
its migration route is probably elliptical, and the northern route 
in spring is probably across the mainland of Asia. 

Some individuals of the marbled godwit (Limosa fedoa) have a 
unique migration route. From their breeding grounds in North 
Dakota and Saskatchewan some of these birds formerly migrated 
almost directly east more than a thousand miles to the Atlantic 
coast, while others traveled a thousand miles due west. to the coast 
of southern Alaska. 

Some birds breed in the Western Hemisphere and winter in the 
Eastern. For example, the Pacific godwit (Limosa lapponica baueri) 
breeds on the western shores of Alaska, whence it passes by way of the 
Commander Islands, Japan, and China to its winter home in Australia. 
The bristle-thighed curlew (Numenius tahitiensis) follows a somewhat 
similar route. The wandering tattler (Heteractitis incanus) breeds 
in Alaska and some individuals pass in fall migration to Asia, Hawaii, 
and Oceania, while others continue down the American coast to the 

A long migration route from the eastern side of North America is 
followed by the ringed plover (JEgialitis Maticula). Some individuals 
breed in Greenland and still farther west in Ellesmere Land and 
about Cumberland Sound, whence they pass east and southeast to 
the European coast and winter from the Mediterranean to southern 

Both these last routes are used by the turnstone (Arenaria inter- 
pres). The individuals that breed in Greenland and Ellesmere Land 
migrate southeast to Europe and Africa, while those that breed in 
Alaska, even as far east as Point Barrow, migrate to the west and 
southwest to winter in Asia and Oceania. 

Another migration route, probably unique, is that taken by the 
considerable numbers of the mountain plover (Podasocys montanus) 
that winter in the Sacramento Valley and elsewhere in California. 
The farthest west and north that the species is known to breed is 
Montana; hence whether the California wintering birds come from 
Montana or from the more southern districts, they apparently form 
an exception to the general rule that North American birds do not 
winter farther west than they breed. 

Though many of the shorebirds breeding in North America winter 
in the southern part of South America, none of them breed in their 



winter home. Special attention needs to be called to this fact, 
because nearly a dozen species of this family— among which may be 
noted particularly the greater and lesser yellow-legs and the white- 
rumped sandpiper — have been reported as breeding near the southern 
end of South America. In no case has it been claimed that the eggs 
have been found, and all the records are based on the finding of 
young not fully grown or in most cases simply from the presence of 
individuals during the usual breeding season of local species. This 
latter reason is not even presumptive of breeding. Nearly a hun- 
dred species of North American birds escape the winter of the North- 
ern Hemisphere by visiting South America, and they remain there 
through what is the breeding season of the resident species, but do 
not themselves undertake any household cares. It may be stated 
positively that none of the Limicolse that breed north of the equator 
breed also in the southern part of their range. 

Species that are Regular Migrants Spring and Fall on the Atlantic and 
the Pacific Coasts and in the Interior. 

American avocet (Recurvirostra ameri- 

cana) . 
Wilson snipe (Gallinago delicata). 
Least sandpiper (Pisobia minutilla). 
Greater yellow-legs (Totanus melanoleu- 


Spotted sandpiper (Actitis macularia). 
Black-bellied plover (Squatarola squata- 

Killdeer (Oxyechus vociferus). 
Semipalmated plover (Mgialitis semipal- 


Species that are Regular Migrants Spring and Fall on both the Atlantic 
and the Pacific Coasts, but are Rare or Wanting in the Interior. 

Hudsonian curlew (Numenius hudsoni- 

(Arenaria interpres 

Red phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius) . 
Northern phalarope (Lobipes lobatus). 
Red-backed sandpiper (Pelidna alpina 

Sanderling (Calidris leucophsea) . 

Species that are Regular Migrants Spring and Fall on the Atlantic Coast 
and in the Interior, but are Rare or Wanting on the Pacific Coast. 

Ruddy turnstone 

Woodcock (Philohela minor). 

Knot (Tringa canutus). 

Pectoral sandpiper (Pisobia maculata). 

Solitary sandpiper (Helodromas solita- 

Piping plover (Mgialitis meloda). 

Species that are Regular Migrants Spring and Fall on the Pacific Coast and 
in the Interior, but are Rare or Wanting on the Atlantic Coast. 

Wilson phalarope (Steganopus tricolor). 
Long-billed dowitcher ( Macrorhamphus 

griseus scolopaceus) . 
Western willet (Catoptrophorus semipal- 

matus inornatus). 

Long-billed curlew 

(Numenius ameri- 

Species that Occur in Migration Principally on the Pacific Coast. 

Black-necked stilt (Himantopus mexica- 

Western sandpiper (Ereunetes mauri) . 
Western solitary sandpiper (Helodromas 

solitarius cinnamomeus) . 
Wandering tattler (Heteractitis incanus). 

Snowy plover (Mgialitis nivosa). 
Surf bird (Aphriza virgata). 
Black turnstone (Arenaria melanocephala) . 
Black oyster-catcher (Hxmatopus bach- 

Western Species that Come East in Migration to the Atlantic Coast. 

Baird sandpiper (Pisobia bairdi). 
Western sandpiper (Ereunetes mauri). 

Wilson phalarope (Steganopus tricolor). 
Long-billed dowitcher ( Macrorhamphus 
griseus scolopaceus). 


The data on the breeding and wintering of the shorebirds has 
been collated from all available printed sources, from the manuscript 
reports of the field naturalists of the Biological Survey, and from the 
specimens and catalogues of the United States National Museum. 
The dates of migration have been obtained principally from the 
migration schedules sent in by the several hundred observers in 
the United States and Canada, who for a quarter of a century 
have contributed to the Biological Survey spring and fall reports of 
their observations. It is a pleasure to testify to the earnest and con- 
scientious efforts these observers have put forth for the solving of 
some of the phases of Nature's great migration problem and to 
return thanks to them for their painstaking labors. 

Red Phalarope. Phalaropus fulicarius (Linn.). 

Breeding range. — The summer home of the red phalarope is 
circumpolar, and the species is known at this season from the whole 
northern coast and islands of America, Europe, and Asia, except a 
few regions, the most notable of which is the eastern coast of Green- 
land. It has been known to breed south to St. Michael, Alaska, 
63° N. (Nelson); to Cape Eskimo, west coast of Hudson Bay, 61° N. 
(Preble); Hudson Strait, 62° N. (Turner); and to the south end of 
Greenland, 60° N. (Schalow). It has been noted north to 83° N., 
north of Spitzbergen (Sverdrup); 82° 30' N. on Ellesmere Island 
(Feilden); Melville Island, 74° 30' N. (Parry); and Point Barrow, 
71° N. (Murdoch). It is especially abundant as a breeder along the 
coast and islands of Arctic America. 

Winter range. — The Old World winter home of the species extends 
south to Morocco, India, China, and New Zealand. Knowledge of 
the winter range in the Western Hemisphere is very meager. The 
species has been noted in the extreme southern parts of South 
America on the Falkland Islands (Schalow), and Juan Fernandez 
(Sharpe); in November, when it may have been migrating, at 
Coquimbo, northern Chile (Salvin) ; on December 5 in Chile, locality 
not designated ( Sharpe) ; specimens are recorded from Argentina and 
Colombia (Sharpe), without date or locality. The lack of records for 
this species is remarkable. There seem to be no records whatever for 
the West Indies nor for the whole of middle America, except the 
western coast of Lower California, where the species is ordinarily a 
rare spring and fall migrant, but occasionally is seen in large flocks 
(Kaeding). Stragglers have been noted at Mount Pleasant, S. C, 
December 4, 1900 (Wayne); on the coast of northern Lower Cali- 
fornia, February 21 (Belding); and occasionally in winter at San 
Diego, Calif. (McGregor). 


Migration range. — Enormous flocks of the red phalarope have been 
noted on the Atlantic Ocean during both spring and fall migration. 
These flocks are common and regular around Newfoundland; become 
less common southward off the coast of Maine; and are rare off the 
coast of Massachusetts, except when driven inshore by storms. The 
red phalarope swims as lightly and easily as any duck, and during 
migration has been noted repeatedly gathering its food from the 
surface of the ocean. Indeed, it seems to have an aversion to land 
except during the breeding season. The migration route by which 
these flocks of red phalarope pass south after they leave Massa- 
chusetts is unknown. The species is known only as a rare straggler 
on the coast of the United States south of Long Island, and as 
already remarked is not recorded from the West Indies nor from the 
east coast of South America north of Argentina. On the Pacific 
coast the species is an abundant breeder in Alaska, and the flocks 
pass along the coast of California both spring and fall, after which 
they can no longer be traced. A few occur on the coast of Lower 
California, and the species is a rare straggler to the coast of Chile. 
The principal winter home of the thousands of birds reared each 
season in arctic America remains yet to be determined. 

The red phalarope occurs as a rare straggler in the interior of the 
United States in migration, and has been recorded from Illinois, 
Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Ontario, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas, 
and Wyoming. The first and only record for Colorado is that of a 
single specimen taken by Edward A. Preble, of the Biological Survey, 
July 25, 1895, near Loveland. 

Spring migration. — Some early flocks appeared off the coast of 
North Carolina the first week in April, 1896 (Thayer) ; most of the 
migration on the coast of Massachusetts occurs during May, especially 
May 20-30; the first appeared June 2, 1820, on Melville Island, lati- 
tude 74° N. (Parry), and June 3, 1852 (Armstrong), near the same 
locality; on June 18, 1883, the first was seen at Fort Conger, Elles- 
mere Island, latitude 81° 40' N. (Greely); and on June 20, 1876, 
the species appeared 1 degree farther north on the same island 
(Feilden). Even considering the 1st of May as the time of arrival 
on the Massachusetts coast, which is probably too early, there are 
left only fifty days for the 3,000-mile trip from Massachusetts to 
Ellesmere Island, an average rate of migration of 60 miles per day, 
which is exceeded by very few species. In spring migration the red 
phalarope has been noted on the coast of California from April 3 to 
June 3 (Kaeding), and reached Point Barrow, Alaska, June 4, 1882, 
and May 30, 1883 (Murdoch). 

Eggs have been taken in Greenland June 3-28 (Hagerup); near 
Fort Anderson June 27 (MacFarlane) ; and at St. Michael June 8 


Fall migration. — The earliest fall birds are seen on the coast of 
California during July (Loomis) ; the larger flocks begin to appear late 
in August and pass south for the next three months. The last seen 
at Point Barrow, in 1882, was on October 10 (Murdoch). The species 
was abundant off the coast of Massachusetts August 4, 1877 (Kum- 
lien) ; and has been noted on Long Island to the third week of 
November (Braislin). 

Northern Phalarope. Lobipes lobatus (Linn.). 

Breeding range. — The northern phalarope breeds in the arctic 
region of both hemispheres, but does not go quite so far north as the 
last species. It ranges from the Chuckchi Peninsula of Siberia east- 
ward across the whole arctic coast of America to the eastern coast of 
Greenland. It breeds north to Upernivik, Greenland, 73° N. (Kum- 
lien); Melville Island, 74° N. (Walker); Point Barrow, Alaska, 71° 
N. (Murdoch); and Wrangel Island, Siberia, 72° N. (Nelson). The 
main breeding ground lies farther south on the mainland of North 
America, especially in northern Mackenzie and western Alaska. It 
breeds south to Ungava Bay, about 59° N. (Turner); near Rupert 
House, Ontario (Drexler); to near York Factory, Keewatin, 57° N. 
(Preble); Fort Anderson, Mackenzie, 68° 35' N. (MacFarlane) ; Pasto- 
lik, in the delta of the Yukon, Alaska, 63° N. (Dall and Bannister); 
and to Kiska Island, near the west end of the Aleutians, 52° N. (Dall). 
In the Eastern Hemisphere it is an abundant breeder from the limit 
of tree growth to the Arctic coast, and in eastern Siberia occasionally 
south to latitude 55°. 

Winter range. — The winter home of the great flocks of northern 
phalaropes that breed in arctic America is unknown. The European 
and Siberian birds winter on the coast of Europe and south to Persia, 
India, China, and the Malay Archipelago. For the whole of the 
Atlantic coast of both North and South America there is not a single 
winter record. A solitary bird was noted at Tumbez, Peru, January 
28 (Taczanowski) ; and the species has been recorded from Chorillos, 
Peru, without date (Berlepsch and Stolzmann). These are the only 
certain records for the whole of South America. This lack of winter 
land records suggests the possibility that both this species and the 
red phalarope spend the winter in midocean feeding and sleeping on 
the surface of the water. 

Migration range. — The northern phalarope comes south along the 
eastern coast of North America, and is seen commonly as far south 
as Nova Scotia. The flocks seem normally to strike south from 
Nova Scotia into midocean, but occasionally they are driven west- 
ward by storms and appear on the New England coast, sometimes 
by thousands. The birds are not rare south to Long Island, but 
farther south can be considered hardly more than stragglers, though 
recorded to South Carolina (Loomis). 


The northern phalarope is a regular though not common migrant 
throughout the interior of the United States, and has been recorded 
from almost every State north of the Ohio River and south to Kansas 
(Goss) and New Mexico (Henry). There is no record as yet for any 
of the Gulf States. The species is a common migrant on the Pacific 
coast of America, and is sometimes abundant south to the coast of 
central California. Farther south it is less common, though recorded 
from San Jose, Lower California, in the fall (Brewster), and from 
the west coast of Mexico in the spring (Nelson). The few noted at 
Duenas, Guatemala, in August and September (Salvin), and those 
at Desamparados, Costa Rica (Salvin and Godman), complete the 
record for Central America. 

Spring migration. — The northern phalarope was noted in the 
Bermudas March 21-22, 1848 (Hurdis), and March 8, 1852 (Reid). 
This is almost two months earlier than the species usually appears 
on the New England and Long Island coasts. Six years' observa- 
tions at Montauk Point Light gives May 13 as the mean date of spring 
arrival— earliest, April 30, 1898 (Scott). Almost all the dates for 
the coast of Massachusetts are in May. The species arrives at the 
northern limit of its range about the middle of June. Some late 
records on the Atlantic coast are: Near Charleston, S. C, June 3, 
1903 (Wayne); Montauk Point, New York, June 3, 1894 (Scott); 
on the coast of Maine to the middle of June (Job). 

The northern phalarope was common at Sihuatanejo, on the 
western coast of Mexico, April 9, 1903 (Nelson); it usually appears 
on the coast of California in early May, reaches the mouth of the 
Yukon the middle of May, and was noted in the Kowak Valley, 
Alaska, May 22, 1899 (Grinnell); Point Barrow, June 11, 1883 
(Murdoch), and June 15, 1898 (Stone); Walker Bay, Prince Albert 
Land, June 15, 1852 (Greely). Individuals are occasionally seen 
on the California coast in summer, but these are nonbreeders. 

Eggs have been taken near Rupert House, Ontario, June 18, 1860 
(Drexler); near Fort Anderson, June 16, 1862 (MacFarlane) ; at 
Kiska Island, Aleutians, June 30, 1873 (Dall); St. Michael, Alaska, 
June 1-20 (Nelson); and Kowak Valley, Alaska, June 28, 1898 

Fall migration. — Returning migrants appear on the coast of central 
California less than six weeks after the northbound flocks disappear, 
and are common by the end of July. The great flocks pass during 
August, are less common in September, and cease in October — latest, 
Monterey, October 24, 1896 (Loomis). The average date of fall arrival 
at Montauk Point, New York, is August 28 — earliest, August 5, 1893, 
latest, October 22, 1888 (Scott). The last one noted at Point Barrow 
was seen August 17, 1898 (Stone), and the species usually disappears 
from the mouth of the Yukon the last of September. 
52928°— Bull. 35—10 2 


Records of migration in the interior of North America are not 
numerous. In southwestern Saskatchewan the fall migration opened 
July 13, 1906, with the arrival of a large flock, and a few days later 
the birds were abundant. This is only four weeks later than the 
departure of the northbound migrants, which had been seen in the 
vicinity in 1905 from May 29 to June 15, and the following year as 
late as June 14 (Bent). A remarkable flight of northern phalaropes 
occurred near Terry, Mont., in 1899; during the last ten days of May 
the birds were exceedingly abundant (Cameron). 

Wilson Phalarope. Steganopus tricolor Vieill. 

Breeding range. — The northern Mississippi Valley and the adjacent 
parts of Canada form the principal summer home of the Wilson 
phalarope. It breeds regularly as far east as northwestern Indiana 
(Lake County; Butler) and the islands near Green Bay shore 
(Schoenebeck) . Macoun records that a pair nested at Dunnville, 
Ontario, near the northeastern shore of Lake Erie. Thence the 
breeding range extends west through central Iowa (Newton; Preston) 
and northern Colorado (Fort Collins; Cooke) to central California 
(Lake Tahoe; Bliss; and Las Banos; Mailliard). Instead of pene- 
trating the Arctic regions, as do other phalaropes, this species finds 
the northern limit of its range in northern Manitoba (Lake Winnipeg; 
Thompson), central Saskatchewan (Osier; Colt), central Alberta 
(Edmonton; Macoun), northern Washington (Cheney; Johnson), 
and probably southern British Columbia. 

Winter range. — The few winter records for this species come from 
South America — from central Chile (Philippi) and central Argentina 
(Durnford) south to Patagonia (Durnford) and the Falkland 
Island (Sclater). There is a single record in fall migration for western 
Brazil (Pelzeln). and one in May for central Peru (Berlepsch and 
Stolzmann). Three specimens were collected January 19, 1890, at 
Corpus Christi, Tex. (Sennett), but these were apparently laggards, 
for the species is not usually seen in Texas after September. 

Migration range. — During the fall migration individuals wander 
eastward to the Atlantic coast and have been noted from New Jersey 
to Montreal. There is also one May record for Massachusetts (Baird, 
Brewer, and Ridgway) and one June record for Maine (Smith). The 
species seems to be unknown on the Atlantic coast between New 
Jersey and Argentina. The principal summer home is in western 
North America, and most of the species migrate south through 
Mexico and along both Mexican coasts, and then apparently cross 
directly to the west central coast of South America, since the species 
is unknown in Central America east of Guatemala and in South 
America north of Peru. 

Spring migration. — The Wilson phalarope arrives in central Kansas 
on the average April 27, earliest April 23, 1885 (Kellogg); northern 


Colorado about May 1; Chicago, 111., average May 6; Heron Lake, 
Minn., average May 11, earliest May 8, 1889 (Miller); Hallock, Minn., 
average May 14, earliest May 9, 1896 (Peabody); Reaburn, Manitoba, 
average May 21, earliest May 16, 1898 (Wemyss); Osier, Saskatche- 
wan, May 19, 1893 (Colt). 

The earliest eggs in northern Iowa are deposited about May 20 
(Anderson); eggs nearly hatched have been found in southern Sas- 
katchewan June 7 (Macoun); young just hatching, June 16, at Lake 
Tahoe, California (Bliss), and at the same stage June 22, at Fort 
Klamath, Oregon (Merrill). 

Fall migration. — The Wilson phalarope moves southward so early 
that most have left the breeding grounds soon after the middle of 
August; the last seen at Lanesboro, Minn., in 1885, was on September 
13 (Hvoslef). The species continues passing through Mexico until 
October (Ferrari-Perez). 

Avocet. Recurvirostra americana Gmel. 

Breeding range. — The central western United States is the prin- 
cipal summer home of the avocet, but its breeding range extends 
north to central Wisconsin (Green Bay; Kumlien), southern Mani- 
toba (Souris; Thompson), southern Saskatchewan (Osier; Colt), 
southern Mackenzie (Fort Rae; Ross), and central Oregon (Haines; 
Haines). It breeds south to northern Iowa (Hawarden; Anderson), 
northwestern Texas (Oberholser), southeastern New Mexico (Carls- 
bad; Bailey), and to Orange County, Calif. (Santa Ana; Grinnell). 
Many years ago this species was not rare on the Atlantic coast, and a 
few are known to have nested at Egg Harbor, N. J. (Giraud). At 
the present time it is a very rare visitor to any part of the Atlantic 
coast, and has scarcely been seen in New Jersey for the last twenty 
years. At various times in the past the avocet has been recorded 
along the coast from Florida (Cory) to southern New Brunswick 
(Chamberlain) ; one of the latest records is that of three birds seen 
September 13, 1896, at Ipswich Neck, Mass. (Kennard), and a single 
bird taken October 8, 1903, at St. Marys, Ga. (Arnow). The species 
occurs in the interior east of the Mississippi River, as a rare visitor 
from Louisiana (Audubon) to Ontario (Fleming), but is known to 
breed only in Wisconsin. 

Winter range. — The avocet winters abundantly on the coast of 
Texas (Merrill) and in southern California (Newberry); sparingly 
through Chihuahua and Lower California and thence south to Gua- 
temala (Salvin). During migration it has wandered a few times to 
Cuba (Gundlach), Jamaica (Gosse), and twice even to Barbados 

Spring migration. — The month of April is the time of most activity 
in spring migration. By the latter part of this month the birds have 
reached South Dakota, and their average date of arrival at Great 


Falls, Mont., is April 24 (Williams). They have even been noted at 
Salt Lake, Utah, as early as March (Baird), and at Ash Meadows, 
Nev., March 15, 1891 (Fisher). They appeared April 28, 1908, at 
Okanagan Landing, B. C. (Brooks), May 14, 1892, at Indian Head, 
Saskatchewan (Macoun), and June 1, 1864, at Fort Resolution, 
Mackenzie (Preble). 

Eggs have been taken at Santa Ana, Calif., as early as May 3 and 
as late as July 6 (Grinnell) ; eggs nearly ready to hatch were found at 
Hawarden, Iowa, June 2, 1900 (Anderson), and at Crane Lake, 
Saskatchewan, June 9, 1894 (Macoun). 

Fall migration. — The southward movement begins so early that by 
the last of August the first migrants have reached southern Mexico. 
Individuals have been seen in Nebraska as late as October 27, 1899 
(Wolcott), and at Salt Lake, Utah, until a month later. Other late 
dates are: Cape Elizabeth, Me., November 5, 1878 (Brown); St. 
Mary Reservoir, Ohio, November 10, 1882 (Dawson); Oberlin, Ohio, 
November 4, 1907 (Jones); near New Orleans, La., November 12, 
1889 (Beyer), and Johnsons Bayou, La., November 26, 1882 (speci- 
men in United States National Museum). 

Black-necked Stilt. Himantopus mexicanus (Mull.). 

Breeding range. — The black-necked stilt is one of the very few 
shorebirds that breed in the United States and also in the Tropics. 
The breeding range extends north to Florida (Scott), Louisiana 
(Beyer), Texas (Merrill), southern Colorado (Henshaw), northern 
Utah (Allen), and central Oregon (Burns; Preble). More than half 
a century ago the species nested on Egg Island in Delaware Bay 
(Turnbull) and as late as 1881 still bred on the coast of South Car- 
olina (Wayne). At the present time the bird is unknown along the 
whole Atlantic coast north of Florida, though formerly it has been 
noted locally to northern New England, and in September, 1880, one 
was seen at Mace Bay, New Brunswick (Chamberlain) . In the interior 
of the United States the species is recorded as a straggler north to 
Ohio (Langdon), Michigan (Gibbs), Wisconsin (Hoy), Iowa (Rich), and 
Nebraska (Bruner, Wolcott, and Swenk), but is not known to breed east 
of the Rocky Mountains north of Texas. The southern limit of the 
breeding range is not yet well known. The species is a tolerably com- 
mon resident of the entire West Indies and the whole northern coast 
of South America. It probably breeds south to central Peru and to 
the Lower Amazon. It breeds on the islands off the coast of Yucatan 
(Salvin), and probably on the coast of northeastern Mexico, and 
south to southern New Mexico (Carlsbad; Bailey) and southern Cali- 
fornia (Santa Ana; Grinnell). The early explorers of the West 
recorded it north to the Columbia River, but there are no definite 
breeding records so far north. 

Winter range. — A few winter in southern Florida (Myers; Scott) 
and on the coasts of Louisiana (Beyer) and Texas (Corpus Christi; 


Rhoads), and from southern Sinaloa (Mazatlan; Nelson) and south- 
ern Lower California (La Paz; Ridgway), south throughout Central 
America and the West Indies to central Peru (Santa Lucia; Tacza- 
nowski) and the mouth of the Amazon (Sclater and Salvin). The 
species winters on the Galapagos Islands, and possibly a few remain 
to breed (Rothschild and Hartert). 

Spring migration. — The slight northward migratory movements of 
this species occur principally in April. Some dates of arrival are: 
Titus ville, Fla., March 11, 1905 (Worthington) ; Sioux City, Iowa, 
April 20, 1902 (Rich) ; Omaha, Nebr., April 20, 1895 (Bruner, Wolcott, 
and Swenk) ; Escondido, Calif., April 13, 1896, April 15, 1897 (Hatch) ; 
Fresno County, Calif., April 5, 1890 (Eaton); Stockton, Calif., April 
13, 1878 (Belding). 

Eggs have been taken in southern California from early May to 
August, and at Salt Lake, Utah, May 22 (Ridgway). At Fort Gar- 
land, Colo., the young were just hatched June 21, 1873 (Henshaw). 

Fall migration. — The latest dates in Nebraska are in early October, 
and the species has been noted at Riverdale, Calif., as late as Novem- 
ber 19, 1891 (Eaton). 

European Woodcock. Scolopax rusticola Linn. 

The European woodcock is widely distributed in Europe and west- 
ern Asia. It breeds in northern Europe and northern Asia from 
beyond the Arctic Circle south to England, Silesia, the Alps, the 
Himalayas, and the mountains of Japan; also on the Azores, Madeira 
and Canary islands. It winters from the British Islands, southern 
Europe and China, to northern Africa, India, and Formosa ; it wanders 
occasionally to eastern North America, and has occurred in Loudoun 
County, Va., in 1873 (Coues) ; Chester County, Pa., the end of Novem- 
ber, 1886 (Stone); one was taken near Shrewsbury, N. J., December 
6, 1859 (Lawrence); one, September, 1889, somewhere in New Jersey 
(Warren) ; one, probably of this species, near Newport, R. I. (Baird, 
Brewer, and Ridgway); one at Chambly, Quebec, November 11, 1882 
(Wintle); and one at St. John, Newfoundland, January 9, 1862 

Woodcock. Philohela minor (Gmel. ) . 
Breeding range. — The woodcock breeds locally throughout most of 
its range in the United States, at least south to Jacksonville, Fla. 
(Brewster), the coast of Louisiana (Beyer), and to Neosho Falls, in 
southern Kansas (Goss). It will probably be found breeding in some 
of the bottomlands of eastern Oklahoma. The breeding range extends 
northward to Pictou, Nova Scotia (McKinlay) ; Prince Edward Island 
(Dwight); Chatham, New Brunswick (Baxter); the city of Quebec 
(Dionne); Bracebridge, Ontario (Macoun); the northern peninsula 
Of Michigan, at Keweenaw Point (Kneeland); extreme northeastern 
Minnesota, at Elbow Lake (Roberts and Benner) ; and to Winnipeg, 


Manitoba (Thompson). The species has wandered north to New- 
foundland (Bennett); was noted the end of August, 1879, at York 
Factory, Keewatin (Bell) ; and early in August, 1892, on Black River, 
Saskatchewan (Tyrrell), at latitude 59° — the most northern and also 
the most western record known. The woodcock has been seen several 
times in Colorado near Denver (Smith), though its regular range 
extends only to eastern South Dakota and eastern Kansas. 

Winter range. — The woodcock remains in the north until driven 
away by frost, and the presence of unfrozen ground is the factor that 
determines the northern boundaries of its range through the winter. 
The larger part of the species winter in the Gulf States south at least 
to southern Florida (Myers; Scott) and to southern Texas (Victoria; 
Mitchell), but in Texas the species is very rare. Few woodcock winter 
north of latitude 37°, but these few ar^ scattered at favorable local- 
ities over a wide area north to Long Island (Giraud), Grafton, Mass. 
(Mackay), and Vincennes, Ind. (Balmer). Woodcock have been 
taken several times in December at St. John, New Brunswick, but in 
each case they proved to be wounded birds (Gilbert). The species 
has been taken once in the Bermudas, in October, 1842 (Hurdis). 

Spring migration. — Not only does the woodcock remain as far north 
as possible through the winter, but it also pushes northward in spring 
as soon as frost releases its feeding grounds. Average dates of spring 
arrival are: Renovo, Pa., March 22, earliest March 13, 1897 (Pierce); 
Long Island, New York, March 15, earliest March 10, 1898; central 
Connecticut, average of twelve years March 20, earliest February 24, 
1891; eastern Massachusetts, average of eight years March 16, earli- 
est February 22, 1902; southwestern Maine, March 29, earliest March 
23, 1905; Halifax, Nova Scotia, March 25, earliest March 10, 1890 
(Piers); St. John, New Brunswick, April 3, earliest March 21, 1898 
(Banks) ; Pictou, Nova Scotia, April 12, earliest April 6, 1892 (McKin- 
lay) ; city of Quebec, average of thirteen years April 17, earliest April 4, 
1890 (Dionne); Hillsboro, Iowa, March 17, earliest March 15, 1898 
(Savage); Waterloo, Ind., March 11, earliest March 1, 1906 (Link); 
Oberlin, Ohio, March 21, earliest March 10, 1902 (Jones); Petersburg, 
Mich., March 17, earliest March 2, 1887 (Trombley); Chicago, 111., 
March 26, earliest March 22, 1884 (Went worth ) ; southern Ontario, 
April 2, earliest March 26, 1901; Ottawa, Ontario, May 1, earliest 
April 20, 1890 (White); Quebec, Canada, earliest April 20, 1907 

One of the most pronounced peculiarities of the woodcock is the 
early date at which it breeds, especially in the Gulf States. Young 
a few days old were found January 29, 1890, at Co vington, La. (Beyer), 
which requires that the eggs should have been deposited in December. 
Young a week old were noted at Jacksonville, Fla., March 10, 1877 
(Brewster); young at Sourlake, Tex., March 22, 1905 (Gaut); young 


a week old at Falls Church, Va., April 18, 1897 (Riley); young just 
hatched, Norwich, Conn., April 5, 1888 (Rawson) ; young just hatched, 
Spearville, Ind., April 13, 1894 (Barnett) ; young, Oberlin, Ohio, 
April 19, 1901 (Baird); while eggs have been taken at Caper Island, 
South Carolina, February 13, 1903 (Wayne) ; Raleigh, N. C, March 
9, 1892 (BrinriVy); Lower Cedar Point, Maryland, February 25, 
1891 (Todd); Fallstown, Md., March 30, 1880 (Kirkwood) ; Law- 
renceville, N. J., March 14, 1889 (Phillips); Rockland, Me., April 26, 
1886 (Norris); Wheatland, Ind., March 14, 1882 (Ridgway); and at 
Vermilion, S. Dak., April 21, 1884 (Agersborg). 

The average date of the last woodcock seen at Ottawa, Ontario, is 
October 19, latest October 23, 1885 (White); average southern On- 
tario October 21, latest November 6, 1889; usually leave Montreal, 
Canada, about October 20, but were seen in 1880 to December 16 
(Wintle) ; St. John, New Brunswick, average date of the last seen 
November 10, latest November 13, 1888 (Banks); Halifax, Nova 
Scotia, average November 6, latest December 4, 1895 (Piers) ; south- 
western Maine, average of nine years October 22, latest November 

23, 1900. 

European Snipe. Gallinago gallinago (Linn.). 

The European snipe is an Old World species breeding in Iceland 
and throughout northern Europe and Siberia and south to the Alps, 
southern Russia, and Turkestan. It winters south to northern 
Africa and to China, Formosa, and the Philippines. It has been 
taken twice in the Bermudas — December 24 and 29, 1847 (Reid), 
and three times in Greenland — at Nanortalik, September 6, 1840; 
at Fiskenaes, October, 1845, both on the west coast of Greenland 
(Winge); and the third instance was May 29, 1902, at Angmagsalik, 
on the eastern coast (Helms). A specimen in the British Museum 
is marked as having come from Canada, but nothing is known of its 

Wilson Snipe. Gallinago delicata (Ord). 

Breeding range. — The northern limit of the breeding range of the 
Wilson snipe extends from Newfoundland (Reeks) and northern 
Ungava (near Fort Chimo; Turner) to northern Mackenzie (Dease 
River; Hanbury) and (Fort Anderson; MacFarlane), northern Yu- 
kon (La Pierre House; Catalogue United States National Museum), 
and northwestern Alaska (Kowak River; Grinnell), apparently fol- 
lowing closely the limit of trees. Snipe have been noted a few times 
on the west coast of Greenland (Winge), but there is nothing to 
prove that they breed in that country. The species breeds south to 
New Jersey (Trenton; Abbott), northern Indiana (Davis Station; 
Deane), northern Illinois (Waukegon; Nelson), northern Iowa; 
(Union Slough, Kossuth County; Anderson), southern Colorado 
(San Juan County; Drew), northern Nevada (Ridgway), and north- 
ern California (Eagle Lake; catalogue egg collection, United States 
National Museum). 


Winter range. — During the winter season some Wilson snipe leave 
the United States and pass even to northern South America, on the 
east side to Rio Janeiro (Pelzeln) and on the west to Medellin, Colom- 
bia (Sclater and Salvin). A few winter in the Lesser Antilles and 
many in Jamaica, Cuba, and the Bahamas. The species is common 
in Mexico and Guatemala, less common in the remainder of Central 
America. A large part of the species winters in the southern United 
States, where it was formerly enormously abundant. No exact 
limit can be given to the northern range in winter. The Wilson 
snipe can not live where the ground is frozen. Hence the normal 
northern winter limit would extend from North Carolina through 
Arkansas to New Mexico and on the Pacific slope to northern Cali- 
fornia. But many snipe pass the winter much north of the zone of 
frozen ground, feeding about streams or springs. A few can be found 
almost every winter on Cape Cod, Massachusetts (Mackay), and a pair 
were seen during January and February, 1896, as far north even as 
W^olfville, Nova Scotia (Tufts) . From the Mississippi Valley snipe 
are reported as wintering north to northern Illinois and northern 
Nebraska (Bruner, Wolcott, and Swenk), while in the Rocky Moun- 
tains of Colorado at 8,000 feet near Sweetwater Lake, the presence 
of warm springs has enabled them to remain the entire winter, 
though the air temperature fell to — 30° F. (Gilmore). They have 
been known also to winter in northern Montana (Coubeaux) and 
northern Washington (Snyder). A few snipe appear almost every 
fall in the Bermuda Islands (Jardine) and sometimes remain through 
the winter, though usually they are rare in spring. 

Spring migration. — A series of nearly twenty years of observations 
near Alexandria, Va., gives the average date of arrival as March 8, 
with the earliest February 17, 1897 (Greenwood); the species is 
most common the last week in March. The average date of arrival 
in central New Jersey is March 22, earliest March 4, 1877. Some 
other dates of arrival are: Central Connecticut, average March 23, 
earliest March 18, 1894; eastern Massachusetts, average April 2, 
earliest March 21, 1887; southwestern Maine, average April 27, 
earliest April 14, 1897; Scotch Lake, New Brunswick, earliest April 
5, 1907 (Moore); Pictou, Nova Scotia, average April 19, earliest 
April 11, 1889 (Mackinlay); city of Quebec, average April 23, 
earliest April 18, 1899 (Dionne). 

The movements in the Mississippi Valley are at closely corre- 
sponding dates: Central Missouri, average date of arrival March 13, 
earliest February 17, 1897; Oberlin, Ohio, average March 28, earliest 
March 19, 1897 (Jones); Chicago, 111., average April 3, earliest 
March 17, 1894 (Blackwelder) ; southern Michigan, average April 3, 
earliest March 21, 1893; southern Ontario, average April 15, earliest 
April 1, 1900; Ottawa, Ontario, average April 26, earliest April 12, 1902 


(White); Keokuk, Iowa, average March 23, earliest March 13, 1900 
(Currier); central Iowa, average March 22, earliest March 11, 1897; 
southern Wisconsin, average March 30, earliest March 18, 1894; 
Heron Lake, Minn., average April 5, earliest April 1, 1888 (Miller) ; cen- 
tral South Dakota, average April 11, earliest April 7, 1890; Aweme, 
Manitoba, average April 24, earliest April 18, 1896 (Criddle); central 
Montana, average April 4, earliest March 27, 1894; Rathdrum, 
Idaho, average April 14, earliest April 8, 1899 (Danby); Okanagan 
Landing, British Columbia, April 8, 1907 (Brooks); Bulyea, Alberta, 
April 27, 1904 (Huck); near Fort Providence, Mackenzie, May 2, 
1904, and May 1, 1905 (Jones); Fort Simpson, Mackenzie, May 10, 
1904 (Preble); Nushagak, Alaska, April 25, 1882 (McKay); Fort 
Reliance, Yukon, May 2 (Sharpe); Fort Kenai, Alaska, May 5, 1869 
(Bischoff); Nulato, Alaska, May 21,1868 (Dall); Kowak River, Alaska, 
May 22, 1899 (Grinnell). 

In southern Louisiana the average date of departure is April 19, 
latest April 30, 1887; Raleigh, -N. C, average April 26, latest 
April 28, 1898 (Brimley); central Nebraska, average April 27, latest 
May 18, 1899; Chicago, III, average May 4, latest May 6, 1904 (Dear- 
born); Oberlin, Ohio, average May 5, latest May 16, 1904 (Jones). 
Some late dates of the last seen are : San Jose, Costa Rica, February 
16, 1890 (Cherrie); Gainesville, Fla., April 15, 1887 (Chapman); 
Lake Ellis, N. C, May 9, 1906 (Brimley); Washington, D. C, May 
4, 1900 (Preble); Bay St. Louis, Miss., May 10, 1902 (Allison); Dal- 
las, Tex., May 1, 1898 (Mayer); Long Pine, Nebr., May 18, 1899 

Eggs have been taken at Meadville, Pa., May 13, 1875 (Huidekoper) ; 
young about two days old at Trenton, N. J., May 26, 1876 (Abbott); 
eggs at Branchport, N. Y., May 20, 1896 (Stone); near Waukegan, 
III, April 24, 1896 (Deane); Davis Station, Ind., April 24, 1898 
(Deane); Pewaukee, Wis., May 12, 1871 (Goss); Elk River, Minn., 
May 24, 1884 (Bailey); Minneapolis, Minn., May 14, 1887 (Cantwell); 
American Fork, Utah, April 29 (Johnson); Fort Klamath, Oreg., 
May 20, 1883 (Bendire); Yukon River, Alaska, May 28, 1861; Fort 
Resolution, Mackenzie, May 30, 1864 (Lockhart) ; Shumagin Islands, 
Alaska, June, 1895 (Call). 

Few of the shorebirds suffer so much from spring shooting as the 
Wilson snipe. All winter long in the swamps of the southern States 
it is persecuted by hunters, and as it moves northward it meets a 
fusillade throughout its whole course. In the central parts of the 
South shooting is at its height early in March, and just south of the 
breeding range the bulk of the birds pass early in April. 

Fall migration. — July birds south of the breeding grounds are very 
rare, though they have been noted at Bay St. Louis, Miss., on the 
very early date of July 29, 1901 (Allison). Some dates of arrival 


in the fall are: Washington, D. C, August 30, 1894 (Richmond); 
Frogmore, S. C, September 16, 1885 (Hoxie); northern Florida, 
average September 26, earliest September 20, 1904 (Williams); 
southern Louisiana, average August 29, earliest August 25, 1901 
(Ballowe); Lincoln, Nebr., August 7, 1900 (Wolcott); San Bernar- 
dino River, Sonora, August 19, 1893 (Mearns); San Jose del Cabo, 
Lower California, August 28, 1887 (Brewster) ; San Jose, Costa Rica, 
October 9, 1889 (Cherrie;) Bermudas, September 13 (Reid); Bar- 
bados, West Indies, October 11, 1886 (Manning). The hunter near 
Newport, R. L, secured scarcely a third as many snipe in the fall as 
in the spring — 466 birds in the eight years; earliest July 30, 1870, 
latest November 14, 1871. The average dates were August 19 to 
October 27 (Sturtevant) . 

Some dates of the last seen are: Near Jasper House, Alberta, 
September 13, 1896 (Loring); Aweme, Manitoba, average October 
11, latest November 7, 1907 (Griddle); Lanesboro, Minn., October 
31, 1887 (Hvoslef); Keokuk, Iowa, average November 23, latest 
November 28, 1889 (Currier); Oberlin, Ohio, latest November 22, 
1890 (Jones); Ottawa, Ontario, average November 2, latest Novem- 
ber 18, 1900 (White); Chicago, 111., average October 31, latest 
November 13, 1885 (Holmes) ; St. John, New Brunswick, November 
5, 1889 (Banks); Halifax, Nova Scotia, average November 23, 
latest December 3, 1894 (Piers); southwestern Maine, average Octo- 
ber 21, latest November 8, 1873; Montreal, Canada, average October 
30, latest November 13, 1897 (Wintle). 

Great Snipe. Gallinago media (Latham). 

The great snipe is a species of wide distribution in the Eastern 
Hemisphere. Its breeding range extends from the Scandinavian 
Peninsula to the Yenisei River of Siberia and from Prussia north to 
at least 71° north latitude. The winter home is from the Mediterra,- 
nean to South Africa, and during its migration the species occurs 
from Great Britain to Persia. 

The only record for the Western Hemisphere is that of a skin pre- 
sented by the Hudson's Bay Company to the British Museum (Sharpe) . 
There is no reason for doubting that the specimen was taken in 
Canada, but no definite locality can be assigned. 

D owitcher . Macrorhamphus griseus ( Gmel . ) . 

Breeding range. — The nest and eggs of the dowitcher are not yet 
known to science, nor has the species been seen in summer at any 
place where it was probably breeding. The dowitcher is a common 
migrant on the coasts of New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and 
Massachusetts, and in fall is sometimes very abundant. Farther 
north its numbers decrease: New Hampshire, tolerably common in 
fall, no spring records; Maine, tolerably common spring and fall; 
Quebec, rare migrant; New Brunswick, no records; Nova Scotia, 


once (Sharpe); Prince Edward Island, once; Ungava, a few in 
August, 1860, at Henley Harbor (Coues), one June 10, 1863, at Fort 
Chimo (Turner). North of Ungava, the only record is that of a 
single accidental occurrence at Fiskenaes, Greenland (Reinhardt). 
Evidently the dowitcher does not breed in any numbers on the 
eastern coast of Ungava. The probability that it does not breed 
there at all is strengthened by the fact that several first class observers, 
who during the fall migration were in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, did 
not see any of the birds. It undoubtedly does not go into north- 
eastern Keewatin and the islands of the Province of Franklin, for it 
is not reported by the various expeditions that have traveled and 
wintered in those districts, while the specimens taken on the west 
coast of Hudson Bay belong to the form called scolopaceus. The 
only district left for the breeding ground is the interior of Ungava 
and the eastern shore of Hudson Bay. 

Winter range. — The dowitcher ranges south in winter through the 
West Indies to the northern coast of South America and to the 
Amazon River (Sharpe). It remains at least as far north as northern 
Florida (Worthington) and probably a few as far west on the Gulf 
coast as Louisiana. 

Spring migration. — The first one seen in 1890 at Darien, Ga., was 
on March 20 (Worthington); the average date of arrival on the 
southern coast of South Carolina is March 23, earliest March 17, 
1885 (Hoxie); central North Carolina, average April 30; Pea and 
Bodie Islands, North Carolina, April 27, 1905 (Bishop); Long Beach, 
New Jersey, May 13, 1877 (Scott). 

The species is rare west of the Allegheny Mountains, but a few 
specimens have been reported: Near Chicago, 111., May 6, 1893 
(Woodruff); Toronto, Ontario, not common May 16-31. This last 
locality seems to be about as far west as the dowitcher occurs regu- 
larly, though formerly it probably ranged west to Lake Michigan. 

The species is not uncommon on the coast of Florida throughout 
the summer, but the individuals remaining so far south do not 
assume the breeding plumage (Scott). Migrants are common in 
Florida until the last week in May, and on the coast farther north 
the last leave for the breeding grounds about the first of June (Scott). 

Fall migration. — The first migrants appear on the New England 
coast early in July: Edgartown, Mass., July 4, 1891 (Worth); near 
Newport, R. L, July 7, 1871 (Sturtevant) ; Long Beach, New Jersey, 
July 6, 1877 (Scott); Bone Island, Virginia, July 14, 1880 (Ridgway); 
Erie, Pa., July 19, 1892 (Todd); Pea and Bodie islands, North Caro- 
lina, July 7, 1904 (Bishop); Barbados, West Indies, August 24, 1888 
(Feilden). A market hunter near Newport, R. I., shot 1,058 dowitch- 
ers during 1867-1874 — extreme dates July 7, 1871, and October 20, 
1870, and average date of arrival July 17 (Sturtevant). Some dates 


of the last seen are: Henley Harbor, Ungava, August 21, 1860 
(Coues); Montreal, Canada, September 27, 1892 (Wintle); Toronto, 
Ontario, September 15, 1889 (Fleming). 

Long-billed Dowitcher. Macrorhamphus griseus scolopaceus (Say). 

Breeding range. — The long-billed dowitcher was found as a fairly 
common breeder in the Anderson River region, Mackenzie (Mac- 
Farlane), and breeds thence west along the Arctic coast to Point 
Barrow, Alaska (Murdoch), though not commonly. It is an abun- 
dant breeder at the mouth of the Yukon and on the shores of Norton 
Sound (Nelson). The species is known from the northern coast of 
eastern Siberia (Palmen), but as yet has not been found there breeding. 

Winter range. — The principal winter home seems to be the shores 
of the Gulf of Mexico ; the species is common as far east as the Gulf 
coast of Florida (Scott), and a few pass on to Cuba (Lawrence). It 
is common in Mexico and Guatemala, has been recorded as far south 
as Costa Rica (Frantzius), and it is probably this form that occurs 
in Panama (Lawrence). 

Some form of the dowitcher occurs on the coast of Ecuador (Sal- 
vadori and Festa) and in Peru as far south as Tumbez (Taczanowski), 
but whether the eastern or western form has not yet been ascertained. 

Migration range. — There is a decided easterly fall migration which 
brings quite a number of long-billed dowitchers to the Atlantic coast 
of the United States. They are fairly common from Long Island- 
southward, and a few have been taken on the coasts of Rhode Island 
(Howe and Sturtevant) and Massachusetts (Brewer); and one, 
August 12, 1891, at Hamilton, Ontario (Fleming). This is the form 
common in the Mississippi Valley and it is also more common than 
griseus, at least as far east as Ohio. There is one record of its accidental 
occurrence in Japan (specimen in United States National Museum). 

Spring migration. — The long-billed dowitcher is only a straggler in 
spring on the Atlantic coast, but has been recorded at Washington, 
D. G, in April, 1884 (Smith and Palmer); Cape May, N. J., May, 
1848 (specimen in United States National Museum); while on Long 
Island, New York, a very early individual was seen March 20 (Law- 
rence) . The species normally reaches northern Indiana and northern 
Illinois late in April, but one was taken in 1889 at English Lake, 
Indiana, on the early date of March 1 1 (Butler) . It was enormously 
abundant along the west shores of Lake Michigan in the early days 
of the settlement of the country, but of late years has become quite 
rare. Some dates of arrival farther west are: Fort Brown, Tex., 
March 27, 1853 (Cassin); Corpus Christi, Tex., March 24, 1889 
(Sennett); Lawrence, Kans. ; April 19, 1873 (Snow); Omaha, Nebr., 
April 28, 1856 (Cassin); Cheyenne, Wyo., May 3, 1889 (Bond); 
Fort Kenai, Alaska, May 4., 1869 (Osgood); St. Michael, Alaska, 
May 18, 1877 (specimen in Sennett collection); Fort Anderson, 


Mackenzie, May 28, 1865 (MacFarlane) ; Point Barrow, Alaska, 
June 19, 1882 (Murdoch). 

Eggs were taken at St. Michael, Alaska, May 23, 1880 (Nelson); 
near Fort Anderson, Mackenzie, June 21, 1864, and June 15, 1865 
(MacFarlane) ; incubating birds were taken at Point Barrow, Alaska, 
June 28, 1883 (Murdoch). 

Fall migration. — Southward-bound migrants were abundant July 
31, 1900, on the west shore of Hudson Bay near Fort Churchill 
(Preble), and this must have been nearly the last of the migration, 
for none were seen after three days later. By this date the earliest 
migrants were already far south, as shown by the following dates of 
arrival: Fort Kenai, Alaska, July 20, 1869 (Osgood); Tulare Lake, 
Calif., July 8, 1907 (Goldman); Hay Creek, Saskatchewan, July 3, 
1906 (Bent); Denver, Colo., July 24, 1873 (Henshaw); Long Island, 
New York, July 23, 1884 (Dutcher); Pea and Bodie islands, North 
Carolina, July 7, 1904 (Bishop); San Mateo, Oaxaca, August 12, 
1869 (specimen in United States National Museum). 

The last were seen at Point Barrow, Alaska, August 17, 1882 
(Murdoch), and August 26, 1897 (Stone); Chilliwack, British Colum- 
bia, October 29, 1888 (Brooks); Hutton Lake, Wyoming, October 14, 
1899 (Knight); Mimbres, Ariz., October 22, 1873 (Henshaw); Souris 
River, North Dakota, October 1, 1873 (Coues); Lincoln, Nebr., 
October 20, 1900 (Wolcott) ; Long Island, New York, October 15, 
1884 (Lawrence). 

Stilt Sandpiper. Micropalama himantopus (Bonap .) . 

Breeding range. — Information concerning the nesting of the stilt 
sandpiper is very meager. Several sets of eggs and some young 
birds were taken at Franklin Bay on the Arctic coast of Mackenzie 
and one nest was found at Rendezvous Lake, a few miles back from 
the coast (MacFarlane). A Biological Survey party found young of 
the year (probably migrants) July 19, 1900, near York Factory, 
Keewatin, and noted old birds August 12 near Cape Eskimo (Preble). 
The young were probably hatched somewhere on the Barren Grounds 
north of York Factory. The record from these regions seems to be 
the only data so far obtained bearing on the summer home of the 
species. It is probably safe to say that the breeding range extends 
along the Arctic coast and the adjoining tundras from near the mouth 
of the Mackenzie to the tree limit on the western shores of Hudson 

Winter range. — If the winter home is to be determined solely by 
specimens noted or taken in winter, then it must be said that the 
winter home of the stilt sandpiper is unknown; for there seem to be 
only two records of the species anywhere for the months of November, 
December, and January. One of these is in Mexico (Ferrari-Perez) 
and the other in Texas (Sennett), and probably both were accidental 


occurrences. This is one of the rarer sandpipers and the total 
number of individuals is not great. The species is apparently most 
common on the Atlantic coast, while a smaller number occur around 
the Great Lakes and along the eastern edge of the Great Plains in the 
line leading to the coast of southern Texas. The winter home is 
therefore to be sought in a southerly direction from the eastern 
United States. The total records for the whole of Central America 
are only three, one each in Guatemala (Sclater and Salvin), Nicaragua 
(Sharpe), and Costa Rica (Zeledon); while the species is recorded as 
a tolerably common migrant in each of the Greater Antilles and in 
six islands of the Lesser, but as more common in the Lesser than the 
Greater Antilles. This latter fact indicates that the principal winter 
home lies along the Atlantic coast of South America, although records 
to substantiate this supposition are lacking. The South American 
records are as follows: Cienega, Colombia, September 13 (Allen); 
Barbahoyo (Sclater) and Vinces (Salvadori and Festa), Ecuador, 
each in September; Yquitos, Peru, September and August (Sharpe); 
Chorillos, Peru (Taczanowski) ; Nauta, Peru, September, October, 
March, and April (Sclater and Salvin) ; Falls of the Madeira, Bolivia, 
October (Allen); Ilha Grande, Brazil, August (Sharpe), and Matto 
Grosso, Brazil, October (Pelzeln). There remain the records of 
specimens taken in Chile (Sharpe) and at Colonia, Uruguay (Sharpe), 
without date of capture. Present knowledge is therefore summed up 
by the statement: It winters in South America, south to Chile and 
Uruguay. One specimen is recorded as taken at Laguna del Rosario, 
Mexico, in January (Ferrari-Perez), and one at Corpus Christi, Tex., 
January 19, 1890 (Sennett). As already stated, it is not probable 
that the stilt sandpiper winters regularly at either of these localities. 
One taken February 8, 1892, at Manzanillo, Mexico, by Nelson and 
Goldman of the Biological Survey, may have been an early spring 

Spring migration. — The species is rare in spring migration along the 
Atlantic coast — indeed, the records are so few that it might be called 
occasional or even accidental. Some of these records are: Jamaica, 
April (March) ; Cuba, April (Gundlach) ; Sullivan Island, South Caro- 
lina, May 11, 1885 (Sennett) ; Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, May 19, 
1898 (Pearson); Long Island, New York, once in May (Chapman), 
one June 16, 1863 (specimen in United States National Museum) ; 
Rhode Island, May 9, 1895 (Howe and Sturtevant). The principal 
route of spring migration seems to be up the Mississippi Valley and 
particularly along the direct course from the coast of Texas to Great 
Slave Lake. Most of the dates of arrival are in May. Some of the 
more northern are: Indian Head, Saskatchewan, May 18, 1892 
(Macoun); Fort Resolution, Mackenzie, May 19, 1860 (Kennicott); 
Cheyenne, Wyo., May 25, 1889 (Bond); Fort Chipewyan Alberta, 

KNOT. 81 

June 6, 1893 (Russell) ; the last one noted at Indian Head in 1892 was 
June 5 (Macoun). Eggs were taken on Anderson River, Mackenzie, 
June 24, 1863; at Rendezvous Lake, June 27, 1865; and young at 
Franklin Bay, July 8, 1865 (MacFarlane). 

Fall migration. — That fall migration begins as early as possible is 
evidenced by the presence of the species in Peru and Brazil by 
August. It is said to arrive on Grenada and Barbados, West Indies, 
in July, and the earliest records on the Atlantic coast of each of the 
New England States is in the same month — earliest July 6, 1874, 
near Newport, R. I. (Sturtevant). As late as 1879 Doctor Brewer 
stated that it was not yet known to be a regular migrant in this 
region, while a gunner near Newport, R. I., had listed 279 individu- 
als, shot in 1867-1874, the dates ranging from July 6 to September 
19 (Sturtevant), but these records were not published until 1901. 
Along this part of its course the species is most common in August, 
and most have departed by early September. Some late dates are: 
Newfoundland, one September, 1867 (Reeks); St. John, New Bruns- 
wick, September 8, 1881 (Chamberlain); Portland, Me., October 13, 
1906 (Eastman); Key West, Fla., November 1, 1888 (Scott); Bar- 
bados (Feilden), Grenada (Wells), and in Trinidad (Leotaud), a few 
remain until October. The species has been noted as casual or acci- 
dental in Colorado (Thorne), Montana (Coues), British Columbia 
(Brooks), and Bermuda (Hurdis). 

Knot. Tringa canutus Linn. 
Breeding range. — The summer range of the knot is almost circum- 
polar, extending from Iceland across the whole of Arctic America and 
westward to northwestern Siberia. The species has also been taken 
once in Spitzbergen, but seems in general to be lacking in the Arctic 
regions north of Europe. There is every reason for believing that 
the species breeds locally throughout its summer range, but authentic 
eggs are a great desideratum. Eggs claimed to be positively identi- 
fied have been collected at four localities: Fort Conger, Grinnell Land, 
June 9, 1883 (Greely); Disko, Greenland, 1875 (Seebohm); Iceland, 
June 17, 1898 (Ottosson); Taimyr Peninsula, Siberia, July 6, 1901 
(Dresser). These eggs differ so much in size, shape, and coloration 
that some of them must have been wrongly identified. One of the 
latent expeditions into the Arctic regions saw young at Goose Fiord, 
latitude 76° 30' N., but found no eggs (Sverdrup). The species was 
found breeding commonly at Igloolik on Melville Peninsula, latitude 
69°, in the summer of 1823 (Parry), but none of the many eggs col- 
lected were preserved. Three years earlier it had been noted as an 
abundant breeder on Melville Island (Sabine). At that time the bird 
was undoubtedly many times more common than now. The Iceland 
record at 66° latitude is the most southern breeding record, and nest- 
lings have been taken on Grinnell Land at 82° 44 ' latitude. These 
represent the extremes of the breeding range. 


Winter range. — The breeding knots of Siberia go south in winter 
to southern Africa, India, Australia, and New Zealand; those from 
Arctic America winter in South America, south to Tierra del Fuego, 
where they were found to be common February, 1895 (Schalow). 
The species is recorded locally from the coasts of South America, but 
present data are not sufficient to define the northern limits of the 
winter range. It is not probable that the knot winters regularly 
anywhere north of South America, and all records to the contrary, 
as the three seen in January, 1890, on Muskeget, Mass. (Mackay), 
must be considered as accidental. On Barbados the species has been 
noted as late as December 27, 1886 (Manning), but it is there con- 
sidered to be only a migrant. 

Migration range. — The principal migration route is along the Atlan- 
tic coast, where the knot is known locally from Florida to Newfound- 
land, and was formerly quite common. There are notable gaps in 
the records of this species. It is known locally as a tolerably com- 
mon migrant throughout the Mississippi Valley east of the ninety- 
eighth meridian, but apparently these Mississippi Valley birds pass 
north and a little east to Hudson Bay and thence to the Arctic 
islands, for the species is unrecorded in the whole interior of Canada 
west of Hudson Bay, and has not been found even on the Arctic 
coast of Mackenzie. Southward there is another break in the rec- 
ords, for the specimen taken April 13, 1904, at Rivera, Veracruz 
(Piper), seems to be the first and only record for Mexico, and there 
is none for Central America, though the species is moderately com- 
mon in Texas south to Corpus Christi (Sennett). A few individuals 
of this species have been seen in migration on the Pacific coast from 
San Diego, Calif. (Dwight), to Cape Blossom, Alaska (Grinnell). 

Spring migration. — The knot arrives on the United States coast in 
April, but the larger flocks come about the middle of May, and there 
is no apparent difference in the dates for the whole coast from Florida 
to Massachusetts. An early date is March 28, at Grand Isle, Louisi- 
ana (Beyer, Allison, and Kopman). Near the northern limit of the 
range some dates of arrival are: Point Barrow, latitude 71° 20 ' N., 
May 30, 1883 (Murdoch); Fort Conger, latitude 81° 40' N., June 3, 
1883 (Greely); Floeberg Beach, latitude 82° 30' N., June 5, 1876 
(Feilden), while far to the southward at Winter Island, latitude 66° 
N., the first was not noted until June 16, 1822 (Parry), and the next 
year at Igloolik, a few miles farther north, not until June 14 (Parry). 

Fall migration. — Birds from the north arrive on the coast of Mas- 
sachusetts, on Long Island, and in some seasons, even on the coast 
of South Carolina (Wayne), by the middle of July; the first was seen 
at the Olympiades, Wash., July 7, 1905 (Dawson). It seems scarcely 
possible that these early arrivals can have bred the same year, for 
earliest dates of young are in July and that at places 2,000 miles or 


more to the northward. August is the month of principal migra- 
tion from Maine to South America, and this month also witnesses 
the departure from the breeding grounds. The last one seen at 
Floeberg Beach was August 29, 1875 (Feilden) ; Point Barrow, August 
17, 1898 (Stone); Homer, Alaska, August 23, 1901; Winter Island, 
Melville Peninsula, August 17, 1822 (Greely). During the summer 
of 1822 the entire stay of the knot on Winter Island was only sixty- 
two days — one of the shortest nesting periods of any species. 

Purple Sandpiper. Arquatella maritima (Briinn.). 

Breeding range. — The purple sandpiper is principally a bird of the 
Old World, breeding on the Arctic coast and islands from north- 
western Siberia to Iceland. In Greenland it is known on the east 
coast to Shannon Island, latitude 75° N. (Schalow); and on the 
west to Thank God Harbor, 81° 40' N. (Bessels); and probably it 
breeds at least as far north as latitude 72°. A few were seen at Fort 
Conger, on Grinnell Land (Greely) ; several at various times in the 
fall around Wellington Channel (McCormick); and the species was 
found common in summer on Banks (Armstrong) and Melville (Ross) 
islands. The Banks Island record at latitude 74° N., longitude 
118° W., marks the extreme northwestern range of the species. To 
the westward of this it is replaced by couesi. The southern limit of 
the breeding range appears to extend from the southern end of 
Greenland to the base of the Melville Peninsula, and possibly to the 
northern shores of Hudson Bay. The species breeds most commonly 
on the shores of Baffin Bay and Davis Strait. 

Winter range. — The purple sandpiper remains the farthest north 
in winter of any of the shorebirds. It is said to winter sometimes 
even in southern Greenland (Hagerup), and it is common in winter 
from Nova Scotia (Sharpe) and New Brunswick (Macoun) southward 
to the coast of Rhode Island (Howe and Sturtevant). It is a rare 
but regular winter visitant to Long Island, New York (Dutcher), and 
has occurred casually thence south to the Bermudas (Reid), Georgia 
(Sennett), and Florida (Scott). The species is rare anywhere away 
from the ocean, but has been noted a few times in the vicinity of the 
Great Lakes. 

Spring migration. — Some dates of spring arrival are : Winter Island, 
June 10, 1822 (Greely); Igloolik, June 14, 1823 (Greely); Cam- 
bridge Bay, June 10, 1853 (Greely); Bay of Mercy, June 3, 1852 
(Armstrong); Cumberland Sound, June 4, 1878 (Kumlien); Prince 
of Wales Sound, Ungava, May 27, 1886 (Payne); west coast of 
Greenland at latitude 72° N., May 29, 1850 (Sutherland). The last 
usually desert the New England coast in March. 

Fall migration. — Occasionally a stray bird appears in September 
on the New England coast, but the main flocks do not arrive until 
52928°— Bull. 35—10 3 


November or December. The species is not late in deserting the far 
North, as evidenced by the following dates of the last ones seen: 
Thank God Harbor, Greenland, September 11, 1871 (Bessels); 
Possession Bay, Franklin, September 1, 1818 (Sabine); Wellington 
Channel, August 28, 1852 (McCormick). At Cumberland Sound a few 
remained in 1877 until November (Kumlien). 

Aleutian Sandpiper, Arquatella maritima couesi Ridgw. 

The western coast of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands seem to be 
the principal home of the Aleutian sandpiper. It breeds throughout 
the whole of the Aleutian Chain, east to the Shumagin Islands (Dall) ; 
and also to the westward on the Commander Islands of Asia (Stej- 
neger). It winters on the Aleutians and south along the mainland 
of Alaska to Sitka (Bischoff). A few of the breeding birds of the 
Commander Islands remain throughout the winter, but most of them 
go south as far as the Kurile Islands (Sharpe). 

Early in August, when the young are strong of wing, great flocks 
move north and appear on the west coast of the mainland of Alaska, 
at least as far north as Kotzebue Sound (Nelson); they occur also 
inland to Nulato (Dall), and on the Asiatic side at least to Plover Bay 
(Dall). This northward migration takes them also to the Pribilof 
Islands (Seale). They remain in this northern part of the range until 
driven south by the gathering ice; the last leave Norton Sound about 
the middle of October (Nelson). The earliest records of eggs taken 
on Bering Island are about the middle of May (Stejneger), and on 
Unalaska Island the first week in June (Keed). 

Pribilof Sandpiper. Arquatella maritima ptilocnemis (Coues). 

The name Pribilof sandpiper indicates the principal breeding place, 
but in addition, the species has been found breeding on the islands 
of St. Lawrence (Nelson), St. Matthew (Elliott), and Hall (Grinnell). 
It has been taken from July 17 to August 29 on the shores of Norton 
Sound (McGregor), but there is nothing to indicate that it breeds in 
the vicinity, and its occurrence there is probably due to a northward 
migration after the breeding season. The main winter home has not 
yet been ascertained, and the only winter records to date are those 
of a few seen in December and January at Portage Bay, near the base 
of the Alaska Peninsula (Hartlaub). In spring migration the Pribilof 
sandpiper has been taken April 1-14 at Nushagak, Alaska (Palmer), 
and in fall migration August 5-14 near Unalaska Island (McGregor). 
Eggs have been found on the Pribilof Islands from June 19 to July 6 
(Prentiss) . 

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. Pisobia aurita (Latham). 

The breeding range of the sharp-tailed sandpiper is not well known. 
The bird occurs in summer on the north shore of Siberia at Cape 
Waukarem (Nelson) and the Chuckchi Peninsula (Palmen), and this 


is probably the principal breeding range. The species winters in 
Australia and New Zealand and migrates through the Commander 
Islands, Japan, China, and the Malay Archipelago. 

All the records for North America seem to be during the fall migra- 
tion, at which period — crossing to America on the way to its winter 
home in Asia — it is fairly common in Alaska on the shores of Norton 
Sound, and has been noted north to Port Clarence and Hotham Inlet 
(Nelson). It has been taken a few times on the Pribilof Islands, once 
on Unalaska Island (Bishop), once on Queen Charlotte Islands 
(Fannin), and once on Vancouver Island (Brooks). The period of 
occurrence on the coast of America extends from August 17, when 
the first was seen on the Pribilof Islands (Grinnell), to October 12, the 
date of the last seen in Norton Sound (Nelson). The two individuals 
taken December 27, 1897, on Queen Charlotte Islands (Fannin), 
were probably stragglers. 

Pectoral Sandpiper. Pisobia maculata (Vieill.)- 

Breeding range. — The principal known summer home of the pectoral 
sandpiper is the coast of northwestern Alaska, from the mouth of the 
Yukon (Nelson) to Point Barrow (Murdoch) . The principal authority 
on the birds of the Arctic coast east of the Mackenzie is MacFarlane, 
and he reports that the pectoral sandpiper was rare in the vicinity of 
Fort Anderson and Franklin Bay, and that he was never able to find 
the nest. This must have been a local peculiarity of distribution, for 
Edward A. Preble, of the Biological Survey, found the species abun- 
dant in August, 1900, on the barren grounds of the western shore of 
Hudson Bay ; the species is also a common fall migrant on the coast of 
Ungava (Coues). Undoubtedly all these birds of Keewatin and 
Ungava nest along the neighboring Arctic coast, where, indeed, the 
eggs have been taken at Cambridge Bay, Franklin (Collinson) . 

Winter range. — In winter the species passes to southern South 
America, at least as far south as Port Desire, Argentina, latitude 
40° 30' S. (Sharpe), and to Antofagasta, Chile, 23° 30' S. (Philippi). 
It winters in northern Argentina (Durnford) and as far north as 
Bolivia (Salvadori) and Peru (Sharpe) . Though confined in summer 
to the seacoast, yet in its migrations it has been noted in Colorado 
at 13,000 feet (Morrison), and in its South American winter home it 
is not uncommon in the mountains to 12,000 feet (Sclater). 

Migration range. — The pectoral sandpiper has a very pronounced 
southeastward migration in the fall. How far west the range extends 
in the Arctics is not yet known, but the bird has been found in late 
July and August along the northern coast of Siberia as far west as the 
Taimyr Peninsula (Palmen), and it may sometimes be found on this 
coast as a breeder. From these far western localities, it starts east 
and south along the Alaska coast, and a few visit the Pribilof Islands 
(specimen in United States National Museum) and the eastern 


Aleutians (Bishop), but the species is nowhere common on the Pacific 
coast south of Alaska, showing that most of the Alaskan and Siberian 
birds cross the Rocky Mountains and migrate southeastward to the 
winter home. A few pass south along the Pacific coast to the State of 
Washington (Suckley) , and there are two records for California — Mill 
Valley Junction, September 14, 1896 (Mailliard), and Farallon Islands, 
September 4, 1884 (specimen in United States National Mueseum). 
The species reappears again in Lower California, where it is fairly com- 
mon during fall migration in the Cape Region (Brewster) . 

The species is well known as a migrant on the west coast of Green- 
land as far north as Upernivik, latitude 73° (Winge). It is a common 
migrant throughout the whole of North America east of the Rocky 
Mountains, and of the West Indies and Central America. It is 
strangely rare in the northern part of South America, where it seems 
to be unrecorded in Venezuela and Guiana, and to have been recorded 
only once from Colombia (Allen). It is common in migration in 
Ecuador and Brazil. 

Spring migration. — The start from the South American winter home 
must be very early — February, or more likely January — for the aver- 
age date of arrival at Raleigh, N. C, is March 23; earliest March 21, 
1889 (Brimley) . Raleigh is full 2,000 miles from the nearest boundary 
of the winter range, and probably these birds had already traveled over 
3,000 miles when they appeared at Raleigh. Some other spring 
dates are: Beaver, Pa., average April 4, earliest April 1, 1890 (Todd) ; 
Erie, Pa., March 23, 1895 (Todd); New Orleans, La., March 7, 1896 
(Allison); Hidalgo, Tex., March 16, 1890 (Sennett); St. Louis, Mo., 
March 17, 1884 (Widmann) ; Chicago, 111., average of seven years, 
March 31, earliest March 27, 1897 (Blackwelder) ; Terre Haute, Ind., 
average March 26, earliest March 17, 1887 (Evermann); Ottawa, 
Ontario, average April 30, earliest April 27, 1894 (White) ; Keokuk, 
Iowa, average April 1, earliest March 17, 1893 (Currier); Fort Reso- 
lution, Mackenzie, May 19, 1860 (Kennicott) ; Fort Providence, 
Mackenzie, May 14, 1905 (specimens in collection Biological Survey); 
Fort Simpson, Mackenzie, May 16, 1904 (Preble); Dawson, Yukon, 
May 19, 1899 (Cantwell) ; St, Michael, Alaska, May 24, 1879 (Nelson) ; 
Kowak River, Alaska, May 27, 1899 (Grinnell) ; Point Barrow, 
Alaska, May 30, 1883 (Murdoch), and May 30, 1898 (Stone). Eggs 
were secured at Cape Lisburne, Alaska, June 5, 1885 (Woolfe), and at 
Point Barrow, June 20-July 10, 1883 (Murdoch). 

Fall migration. — In common with many other shorebirds, the 
pectoral sandpiper begins its fall migrations in July; indeed, it is 
probable that some start southward in June, for the average date 
of arrival on the coast of Mississippi is July 19, earliest July 15, 
1903 (Allison); and at New Orleans, La., earliest July 17, 1895 
(Blakemore). These birds were already more than 2,000 miles 


south of their breeding grounds, and had probably traveled all of 
this distance, for the pectoral sandpiper is not one of the species 
whose nonbreeders remain through the summer far south of the 
nesting grounds. If the fall migration was made at the same speed 
as the spring migration, about 35 miles per day, these July Gulf 
coast birds would have had to start on the return trip the middle of 
May, or earlier than they reach their breeding grounds. The records 
of this species combined with those of many others seem to indicate 
that the earliest fall migrants travel at a higher speed than the 
earliest spring migrants. This high speed in the case of the pectoral 
sandpiper is continued to South America and brings the first to 
Argentina by the end of August (Sclater and Hudson) . 

The regular fall migration of the young birds is a full month later, 
and they reach the coast of Ungava after the middle of August 
(Coues). Some late dates are: Northern coast of Siberia, August 20 
(Pelzeln); Point Barrow, September 6, 1882 (Murdoch); St. Michael, 
September 6, 1899 (Osgood); Unalaska Island, October 5, 1899 
(Bishop); Nushagak, Alaska, October 15, 1884 (Osgood); southern 
British Columbia, average October 16, latest October 25, 1905 
(Brooks); Terry, Mont., October 21, 1905 (Cameron); Great Bear 
Lake, August 29, 1903 (Preble) ; Montreal, average October 25, latest 
November 1, 1890 (Wintle) ; Ottawa, Ontario, average October 29, 
latest November 5, 1895 (White); Lincoln, Nebr., November 4, 1899 
(Wolcott); Keokuk, Iowa, November 24, 1900 (Currier); Carlisle, 
Pa., November 2, 1844 (Baird); Raleigh, N. C, November 15, 1894 
(Brimley). A gunner near Newport, R. I., who shot 2,337 birds in 
1867-1874, killed most of them between August 10 and October 10 — 
extreme dates July 16, 1870, and October 20, 1874 (Sturtevant) . 
White-rumped Sandpiper. Pisobia fuscicollis (Vieill.). 

Breeding range. — The only nests and eggs of the white-rumped 
sandpiper so far reported are those taken near the coast of Franklin 
Bay, Mackenzie, and on the neighboring Barren Grounds (MacFar- 
lane). The species was seen near Cumberland Sound July, 1878 
(Kumlien), under such conditions as to make it probable that it 
was breeding, and is recorded as breeding at Cape Fullerton, Hudson 
Bay (Low) . Many specimens have been taken on the west coast of 
Greenland from near the southern end north to Upernivik, latitude 
73° (Winge), but there is no proof that any of these were breeding. 
At Point Barrow, Alaska, the species was noted June 6-July 6, 1883 
(Murdoch), and June 2-14, 1898 (Stone), but again there is no cer- 
tainty of breeding. None of the expeditions that lived and collected 
on Boothia Peninsula and Melville Peninsula mention this species, 
and it is not known to breed south of Hudson Strait. It is evident, 
therefore, that the thousands of individuals of this species are crowded 
during the breeding season into a rather narrow belt of tundra 


extending from near the mouth of the Mackenzie east to the southern 
end of Baffin Land. 

Winter range. — Few species of shorebirds have so many records 
for Patagonia as the white-rumped, and this is also one of the species 
that is erroneously said to breed in the Southern Hemisphere. It 
winters abundantly from Paraguay and Argentina to the Falkland 
Islands (Sclater and Salvin) and the southern coast of Tierra del 
Fuego (Schalow). It is rare or casual on the coast of Chile (Gay) 
and unknown on the rest of the western coast of South America, 
except one seen at Chorillos, Peru (Taczanowski) , and one taken 
October 12, 1864, near Huanaracama, Peru (specimen in United 
States National Museum) . 

Migration range. — During migration the white-rumped sandpiper 
is common along the whole eastern coast of South America, in the 
West Indies, and in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. 
The western edge of the migration route extends from the upper 
Mackenzie through western Saskatchewan and eastern Colorado to 
the coast of southern Texas and then turns east to northern Yucatan 
and the island of Trinidad. The species is only an accidental visi- 
tant to Mexico (Salvin), Central America, and the whole of north- 
western South America. Accidental once in California (Bryant) 
and several times in Europe. 

Spring migration. — The species arrives in Cuba in April (Gundlach) 
and has been recorded in northern Yucatan April 15 (Salvin). Nearly 
all the dates of arrival in the United States are in May, from Florida 
to Maine and from Massachusetts to Colorado. The first was seen at 
Indian Head, Saskatchewan, May 9, 1892 (Macoun); Fort Chipew- 
yan, Alberta, May 30, 1893 (Russell); Fort Resolution, Mackenzie, 
May 19, 1860 (Kennicott) ; Cape Fullerton, Hudson Bay, May 22, 1904 
(Eif rig) . There are indications that the larger number pass north in 
spring by way of the Mississippi Valley and return in fall along the 
Atlantic coast; but some individuals are found on the Atlantic coast 
in spring, though rare north of Virginia, and a few occur in the eastern 
Mississippi Valley in fall. The most surprising feature of this bird's 
migration is its late stay in spring south of its breeding grounds. 
Near Cape Horn, South America, it was abundant the winter of 
1882-83 and remained until March 7, 1883 (Oustalet). It remains in 
southeastern Argentina until late April (Holland), and a single speci- 
men was taken at Colonia, Uruguay, in June (Sharpe). The species 
remains regularly in Brazil until May (Pelzeln); one was taken on 
Inagua. Bahamas, May 27, 1879 (Cory); Amelia Island, Florida, 
May 30, 1906 (Worthington) ; Erie, Pa., June 4, 1875 (Sennett); 
Stafford County, Kans., June 6, 1907 (Peabody); Waukegan, 111., 
June 9, 1876 (Nelson); Toronto, Ontario, June 21, 1898 (Nash); and 
at Indian Head, Saskatchewan, the last did not leave for the north 
until July 1, 1892 (Macoun). 


Fall migration. — By early July the species is already moving south 
and arrived soon after July 1, 1886, at Prince of Wales Sound, Ungava 
(Payne), just south of the breeding grounds. During the month of 
July the van appears all along the New England coast, and even 
reaches Barbados (Feilden). August finds the species in Brazil 
(Pelzeln), and the collectors near Cape Horn in 1882 recorded the 
arrival of the first September 9 (Oustalet). 

The main part reaches the northern United States in August, usu- 
ally about the second week ; the last leave the breeding grounds soon 
after the 1st of September, and the birds are seldom seen on the New 
England coast after the middle of October. One was taken at Ossin- 
ing, N. Y., October 21, 1879 (Fisher), and a late migrant was taken 
at Lake Drummond, Virginia, November 5, 1898 (Fisher). 
Baird Sandpiper. Pisobia bairdi (Coues). 

Breeding range. — The Baird sandpiper has been found breeding at 
Point Barrow, Alaska (Murdoch), in the vicinity of Franklin Bay, 
Mackenzie (MacFarlane), and at Cambridge Bay, Franklin (Collinson). 
These localities probably represent the real extremes of the breeding 
range, for east or west of these limits the species is known very 
rarely even in migration. 

Winter range. — During migration the Baird sandpiper has been 
noted near the summit of one of the highest mountains of Colorado at 
14,000 feet (Drew). The same tendency to seek a high altitude is 
shown in the winter home, for this species has been taken repeatedly 
in the high mountains of northern Chile at 10,000 to 12,000 feet, and 
one specimen was secured at over 13,000 feet altitude (Sclater). 
Chile seems to be the principal winter home of the species, and it has 
been recorded here south to Talcahuano, latitude 36° 30' S. (Sharpe). 
It is said to have occurred in Patagonia (Carbajal), but no definite 
locality is given, and in Argentina it seems not to have been recorded 
south of Buenos Aires (Sclater and Hudson). 

Migration range. — The route the Baird sandpiper traverses between 
its winter and summer homes is yet to be determined. In spring 
migration the species is practically unknown east of the Mississippi 
River, and is abundant on the coast of Texas, on the plains, and in 
the Rocky Mountain region. Though many individuals occur in the 
eastern United States in fall, yet the bulk retraces its spring course 
and leaves the United States to the southward of the plains region. 
It has been noted in a few places in Mexico in fall: Colonia Garcia, 
Chihuahua, September 4; Chihuahua City, October 3 (Nelson); San 
Jose del Cabo, September 3-13 (Brewster); Janos River, Chihuahua, 
September 5 (Wolfe); Las Vigas, Jalapa, September (Sharpe); and 
Zacatecas, August 16 (Sharpe); here the record ends. The species is 
not recorded for Guatemala, Honduras, or Nicaragua. It is a common 
fall migrant in Ecuador (Salvadori and Festa), but the only records 


between Mexico and Ecuador are: Volcano Irazu, Costa Rica, June 8 
(Cherrie); La Estrelle de Cartago, Costa Rica, November 5, 1907 
(Carriker) ; and Medellin, Colombia (Sclater and Salvin), without date 
of observation. 

Not many years ago the Baird sandpiper was considered merely 
accidental on the Atlantic coast. The past few years have witnessed 
a great increase of data. It is now known to be a regular and not 
rare migrant east to Lake Huron (Wood), Lake Erie (Todd), and the 
western end of Lake Ontario (Nash), and there are 50 or more printed 
records for the Atlantic coast region, from Four Mile Run, Va. 
(Matthews), north to Digby, Nova Scotia (Macoun). What becomes 
of these Atlantic coast birds is not yet known, for the species seems to 
be unrecorded in the United States south of the Ohio River and east 
of Mississippi, and is not known in the West Indies. It ranges regu- 
larly west to British Columbia (Brooks), but to the southward the 
flocks seem to pass inland west of the Sierra and are common in 
Nevada (Ridgway) and Arizona (Henshaw), but rare in California, 
where it has been taken at Point Pinos (Mailliard) and September 8, 
1904, at Pacific Beach (Bishop). 

Spring migration. — The Baird sandpiper is a much earlier migrant 
than its eastern relative, the white-rumped. It appears on the coast 
of Texas in early March (Brown) ; the average date of arrival in central 
Nebraska is March 24, earliest March 19, 1890 (Powell); Loveland, 
Colo., March 29, 1890 (Smith); southern British Columbia, April 29, 
1889, and 1905 (Brooks); Indian Head, Saskatchewan, May 9, 1892 
(Macoun); Fort Resolution, Mackenzie, May 19, 1860 (Kennicott); 
near Dyer, Alaska, May 15, 1882 (Hartlaub); Kowak River, Alaska, 
May 20, 1899 (Grinnell) ; Point Barrow, Alaska, average of three years 
May 29, earliest May 28, 1898 (Stone). The date of arrival at Point 
Barrow is worthy of notice, for at this time the birds' breeding grounds 
on the tundra were covered deep with snow, and it had to wait some 
weeks before it could begin nesting. The earliest eggs at Fort 
Anderson were found June 24, 1864 (MacFarlane) ; the next year, 
young were noted July 5, and downy young were taken at Point 
Barrow July 16, 1898 (Stone). 

The species remains in Chile until the last of March (Lane), and is 
common in Texas to the middle of May (Lloyd). A late migrant was 
taken June 1, 1903, at Iguala, Guerrero (Nelson and Goldman). The 
last usually leave Nebraska before the first of June, but in 1900 one 
was seen at Lincoln on June 29 (Wolcott). The last was noted at 
Indian Head, Saskatchewan, June 2, 1892 (Macoun), and at Fort 
Chipewyan, Alberta, June 1, 1893 (Russell). 

Fall migration. — Several flocks already in fall migration were seen 
at Great Slave Lake, Mackenzie, July 10, 1901 (Preble). Since the 
earliest young are not hatched until the first week in July, it is evident 


that these flocks of July 10, already several hundred miles south of 
the breeding grounds, must consist either of barren birds or of those 
that had suffered loss of their eggs. In southern British Columbia, 
the average date of arrival is August 11, earliest August 6, 1888 
(Brooks) ; near Monterey, Calif., August 25, 1897 (Mailliard) ; southern 
Saskatchewan, July 17, 1906 (Bishop); southern Manitoba, July 23, 
1881 (Macoun); Lincoln, Nebr., August 9, 1900 (Wolcott); southern 
Ontario, July 28, 1891 (Nash) ; Locust Grove, N. Y., August 18, 1885 
(Henshaw); Boston Harbor, August 27, 1870 (Henshaw) ; Montauk, 
N. Y., August 14, 1907 (Braislin). In September it reaches its 
winter home in southern South America. 

The last were seen at Point Barrow, Alaska, August 12, 1883 (Mur- 
doch), and September 4, 1897 (Stone); southern British Columbia, 
September 15, 1903 (Brooks); Fort Lyon, Colo., September 28, 1885 
(Thorne); Lincoln, Nebr., November 3, 1900 (Wolcott); southern 
Ontario, October 20, 1893 (Elliott); New Haven, Conn., October 28, 
1887 (Woodruff ); Galapagos Islands, October 6, 1897 (Rothschild and 
Hartert) . 

Least Sandpiper. Pisobia minutilla (Vieill.). 

Breeding range. — The least sandpiper nests in the far north to 
northern Ungava (Turner); at Cambridge Bay in southern Franklin 
(Coliinson); the coast of Mackenzie (MacFarlane) ; and Kotzebue 
Sound, Alaska (Grinnell). Unlike most of the Arctic breeding shore- 
birds, it breeds also quite far south to Sable Island (Oates) ; Magdalen 
Islands (Job); northeastern Quebec (Audubon); upper Hamilton 
River, Ungava (Low); Fort Churchill, Keewatin (Preble); Lake 
Marsh, southern Yukon (Bishop); and in Alaska south to Yakutat 
Bay (Merriam). The western limit of the breeding range in Alaska 
is not yet definitely settled. 

Winter range. — The species is recorded without exact locality from 
Chile (Salvin), has been taken at several places in Peru (Tacza- 
nowski), and ranges south in Brazil to Pernambuco (Allen). Thence 
it is known throughout northern South America, Central America, 
Mexico, and the West Indies, the coast of Georgia (Helme), rarely in 
winter to North Carolina (Bishop), southern Texas (Merrill), southern 
Arizona (specimen in United States National Museum), and southern 
California, north at least to Owen Lake (Fisher) and Humboldt Bay 

Migration range. — Beyond the known breeding range, the least 
sandpiper is found in fall on the west coast of Greenland north to God- 
haven, latitude 69° (Walker); at Plover Bay, Siberia (Bean). It 
occurs during most if not all the summer on the Alaska Peninsula 
(Osgood) and on the Aleutian Islands west to Unalaska (specimen 
in United States National Museum). 

Spring migration. — Though wintering so far north, this species is 
one of the later shorebirds to migrate. Most of the migrants cross 


the United States in early May, as shown by the following dates of 
arrival: Long Island, New York, average May 4, earliest April 21, 
1906 (Latham); eastern Massachusetts, average May 8; city of 
Quebec, average May 2, earliest April 28, 1900 (Dionne); Chicago, 
111., average May 8, earliest May 4, 1898 (Gault); Oberlin, Ohio, aver- 
age May 12, earliest May 8, 1905 (Jones); southern Ontario, average 
May 15, earliest May 8, 1889 (Mcllwraith) ; Ottawa, Ontario, average 
May 18, earliest May 10, 1888 (White) ; Onaga, Kans., average May 11, 
earliest May 9, 1904 (Crevecoeur) ; southern Saskatchewan, average 
May 17, earliest May 12, 1903 (Harvey); Fort Resolution, May 19, 
1860 (Kennicott); Fort Providence, May 15, 1905 (Mills); Fort Simp- 
son, May 17, 1904 (Preble) ; Loveland, Colo., average April 21, earliest 
April 19, 1890 (Smith); Cheyenne, Wyo., average April 28, earliest 
April 23 1888 (Bond) ; Newport, Oreg., average April 29, earliest April 
21, 1901 (Bretherton) ; southern British Columbia, average April 22, 
earliest April 20, 1905 (Brooks) ; Nulato, Alaska, May 11, 1867 (Dall) ; 
Kowak River, Alaska, May 15, 1899 (Grinnell). 

Eggs were taken near Fort Anderson, Mackenzie, June 21, 1862; 
June 24, 1863, and June 30, 1864 (MacFarlane) ; Yakutat Bay, 
Alaska, June 21, 1899 (Merriam); downy young at Lake Marsh, 
Yukon, July 2, 1899 (Bishop), and an egg ready to lay at the Kowak 
River, Alaska, June 1, 1899 (Grinnell). 

Fall migration. — The following dates of arrival show how very 
early some individuals of the species must start southward: Sitka; 
Alaska, common July 2, 1896 (Grinnell); southern British Columbia, 
July 2, 1889 (Brooks); North Dalles, Wash., July 4, 1897 (Fisher); 
near San Diego, Calif., July 13, 1894 (Mearns); Fort Bridger, Wyo., 
July 13, 1858 (Drexler); Lincoln, Nebr., July 14, 1900 (Wolcott); 
Detroit, Mich., July 9, 1905 (Swales), July 7, 1906 (Taverner); near 
Toronto, Ontario, July 4, 1891 (Nash); Lexington, Ky., July 16, 
1905 (Dean); Long Island, New York, average July 8, earliest July 
6, 1898 (Worthington) ; Bahamas, July 16, 1903 (Riley), July 18, 
1904 (Allen); the Lesser Antilles, the middle of July (Feilden); off 
the coast of Venezuela, July 23, 1892 (Hartert). 

Some dates of the last seen are: Cape Blossom, Alaska, August 10, 
1898 (Grinnell); southern British Columbia, average September 11, 
latest September 18, 1903 (Brooks); Aweme, Manitoba, average Sep- 
tember 4, latest September 26, 1899 (Criddle) ; Long Island, New York, 
September 17, 1905 (Latham); Erie, Pa., October 3, 1895 (Todd); 
Back River, Maryland, November 3, 1894 (Kirkwood). 

Long-toed Stint. Pisobia damacensis (Horsf.). 

The long-toed stint is a species of eastern Asia, accidental in 

North America. It breeds in eastern Siberia, Kamchatka, Bering 

Island, and south to the Kurile Islands; west probably to the valley 

of the Lena River. This statement of breeding range is based on 


the occurrence of the species in summer, since the nest and eggs are 
still unknown. The species passes south for the winter, through 
China and Japan, to Australia, the Malay Archipelago, Burma, and 
India. The only record in North America is of a single specimen 
taken June 8, 1885, on Otter Island, Alaska (Ridgway). 
[Cooper Sandpiper. Pisobia cooperi (Baird). 

The Cooper sandpiper is known only from the single specimen now in the National 
Museum, taken in May, 1833, on Long Island. The status of the species is still in 


Dunlin. Pelidna alpina (Linn.). 

The dunlin, an Old World species, has been noted a few times in 
North America. A specimen was taken October 20, 1842, at Wash- 
ington, D. C, and two days later a second was secured (Smith); one 
was captured September 15, 1892, at Shinnecock Bay, Long Island, 
New York (Young), and one August 11, 1900, at Chatham, Mass. 
(Howe and Allen). There are less certain records of its occurrence 
in the region of Hudson Bay (Blakiston). There seems to be no 
sure record for Greenland, though the regular breeding range extends 
west to England, Scotland, and Iceland. The species breeds east 
to Turkestan and probably to the valley of the Yenisei, and north to 
the islands of the Arctic coast. It winters from Great Britain and the 
Caspian Sea south to northern Africa and India. 

Red-backed Sandpiper. Pelidna alpina sakalina (Vieill.). 

Breeding range. — The red-backed sandpiper has two well-defined 
breeding areas corresponding in general to the Atlantic and Pacific 
winter ranges. The birds of the Atlantic coast breed from north- 
eastern Ungava (Weiz) and Cape Fullerton, Hudson Bay (Low), north 
to Bellot Strait (McClintock) . A few (of either this form or the last) 
breed on the west coast of Greenland, from which country there are 
eggs in the United States National Museum. The birds of the Pacific 
coast breed in Alaska from the mouth of the Yukon (Nelson) north 
to Point Barrow (Murdoch), and on much of the northern coast of 
Siberia west possibly to Yenisei River (Seebohm). The region of 
intergradation along the coast of Siberia is not yet definitely deter- 
mined. These two breeding areas are separated by nearly 1,500 
miles of Arctic coast, from Point Barrow to the Boothia Peninsula, 
and throughout this whole region there seems to be no certain record 
of the occurrence of the red-backed sandpiper. If it does occur, it 
must be very rare, and the probability that it does not is increased by 
the fact that the species is not known as a migrant in the region 
immediately to the south. It is abundant as a migrant along the 
west coast of Hudson Bay (Preble) and has been taken at Dawson, 
Yukon (Cantwell), but as yet is unrecorded in the intervening districts. 
Winter range. — Few of the shorebirds go so short a distance to the 
southward as the red-backed sandpiper. It is common in winter 


as far south as central Florida (Scott), but is unknown in the Bahamas 
and the West Indies. On the coast of Texas it ranges to the mouth 
of the Rio Grande (Merrill), but is not yet known in northeastern 
Mexico. On the Pacific coast it is abundant south to southern Lower 
California (Belding), but seems not to pass farther south. The only 
record south of the region just outlined is that of a specimen, undoubt- 
edly a straggler, taken May 23, at Momotomba, Nicaragua (specimen 
in British Museum). During the winter the species remains north 
to the coasts of North Carolina (Bishop), New Jersey, casually 
(Stone), Louisiana (Beyer), Texas (Carroll), and at least to central 
Washington (Bowles). The Siberian birds of this form winter from 
Japan and China to the Malay Archipelago. 

Spring migration. — Most of the spring movements occur in May, 
but a few early birds press northward in April: Long Beach, New 
Jersey, April 17, 1877 (Scott); Long Island, New York, April 3, 
1882 (Chapman); Erie, Pa., April 21, 1900 (Todd). On the Atlantic 
coast north of Massachusetts the species is not so common in spring 
as in fall, while around the Great Lakes the reverse is the case. The 
main body of the Atlantic coast birds seem to reach their breeding 
grounds by way of the Great Lakes and Hudson Bay. Along this 
route they are late migrants, reaching southern Ontario on the average 
May 20, earliest May 13, 1905 (Taverner). 

The Pacific coast birds appeared in southern British Columbia 
April 25, 1888 (Brooks), and April 26, 1889 (Brooks); one was seen 
as early as April 2, 1897, at Howcan (Cantwell), in the extreme 
southern part of Alaska. Other dates of spring arrival are; Fort 
Kenai, May 16, 1869 (Osgood); Kigulik Mountains, May 17, 1905 
(Anthony); Dawson, Yukon, May 24, 1899 (Cantwell); Point Bar- 
row, Alaska, May 31, 1882 (Murdoch), May 29, 1883 (Murdoch), and 
June 2, 1898 (Stone). 

None were noted in Lower California after May 10 (Belding), but 
in central Florida they have been recorded as late as June 2, 1886 
(Scott), and in southern Ontario the average date of the last seen 
is June 4, latest June 13, 1891 (Nash). 

Eggs have been taken at the mouth of the Yukon, June 6, 1879 
(Nelson); Cape Prince of Wales, June 27, 1898 (Grinnell) ; and at 
Point Barrow, June 22, 1883 (Murdoch). At this last locality the 
eggs in some seasons must be laid earlier than the above date, for in 
1898 downy young were taken July 6 (Stone). 

Fall migration. — Early fall migrants were passing south July 19, 
1900, along the west shore of Hudson Bay, near York Factory (Preble), 
and two weeks later they were enormously abundant, showing that 
this is one of the principal routes in fall migration. Since the species 
is not common in the Mississippi Valley and is comparatively rare in 
western Ontario in the fall, it is evident that many of these Hudson 


Bay birds turn eastward to the Atlantic coast. An early arrival 
appeared on Long Island, New York, July 17, 1897 (Worthington), 
but the usual time of arrival is a month or more later; Hay ward, 
Calif., August 3, 1889 (Emerson); Point de Monts, Quebec, August 
28, 1883 (Merriam); Plymouth, Mass., September 17, 1852 (Browne); 
Erie, Pa., September 21, 1875 (Sennett); Washington, D. C, Sep- 
tember 25, 1894 (Hasbrouck). 

The last deserted the breeding grounds at Point Barrow, Alaska, 
September 7, 1882 (Murdoch); September 4, 1897 (Stone). The 
last have been noted at St. George Island, Alaska, October 3, 1899 
(Bishop); Bering Island, October 25, 1884 (Grebnitsky) ; Chicago, 
111., November 3, 1906 (Ferry); Oberlin, Ohio, October 27, 1906 
(Jones); St. Clair Flats, Michigan, November 20, 1904 (Blain); Otta- 
wa, Ontario, average October 4, latest October 29, 1889 (White); 
Portland, Me., November 11, 1906 (Eastman); Barnstable, Mass., 
December 23, 1903 (Howe); Comox, British Columbia, December 5, 
1903 -(Brooks). 

Curlew Sandpiper. Erolia ferruginea (Briinn.). 

The curlew sandpiper breeds only in the Eastern Hemisphere, but 
wanders not infrequently to the Atlantic coast of North America. 
The only eggs so far known were taken July 3, 1897, in the delta of 
the Yenisei River, Siberia (Newton), and June 24-July 6, 1900, on 
the northwestern coast of the Taimyr Peninsula, Siberia (Dresser). 
It is probable that all Greenland records for this species are erro- 
neous, and that the only reliable record in Arctic America is that of 
the single individual taken June 8, 1883, at Point Barrow, Alaska 
(Murdoch). On the Atlantic coast of America it has been recorded 
about twenty times from Halifax, Nova Scotia (Jones), to Cape May, 
N. J. (Abbott). A few dates are in May, but the larger part are in 
the fall from August to October. One specimen was taken about 
1886 in the interior at Toronto, Ont. (Fleming). The species has 
been recorded from Grenada Island, West Indies (Cory), and there 
is a specimen in the British Museum said to have been taken in eastern 

In winter the curlew sandpiper ranges south to southern Africa, 
India, the Malay Archipelago, and Australia. During migration it 
has been noted in the Philippines and China, and west to Great 

Spoon-bill Sandpiper. Eurynorhynchus pygmeus (Linn.). 

The spoon-bill sandpiper inhabits the Eastern Hemisphere and 
ranges in summer to northeastern Siberia. It migrates through Japan 
and China and winters as far south as Burma and India. One was 
taken in 1849-on the Choris Peninsula of Alaska — the only record for 
the Western Hemisphere. 


Semipalmated Sandpiper. Ereunetes pusillus (Linn.). 
Breeding range. — The semipalmated sandpiper breeds in Ungava 
at Okak (Crandall) and south to Fort George (Drexler), and also on 
the Barren Grounds from Hudson Bay (Eifrig) west to Franklin Bay 
(MacFarlane), along the Arctic coast to Kotzebue Sound, Alaska 
(Grinnell), and south on the western coast of Alaska to St. Michael 
(specimens in United States National Museum). 

Winter range. — It winters mainly in eastern South America, south 
to Patagonia (latitude 43° S.) (Seebohm), and thence north through 
Central America and the West Indies to eastern Mexico (Sumichrast), 
southern Texas (Refugio County; Carroll), Florida (Scott), and- the 
coast of Georgia (Helme) and South Carolina (specimen in United 
States National Museum) . 

Migration range. — The semipalmated sandpiper is a rare spring 
but an abundant fall migrant along the whole Atlantic coast. It is a 
common fall migrant through the Bermudas (Hurdis), Bahamas 
(Bryant), and the West Indies east of Cuba. It is common both 
spring and fall in the Mississippi Valley, becoming less common west- 
ward to the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains, and west of the 
mountains to western British Columbia (Brooks), Sitka, Alaska (Bis- 
choff), Cook* Inlet (Chapman), Norton Sound (McGregor), St. Paul 
Island (Palmer), and the coast of northeastern Siberia (Nelson). It 
has occurred in migration on the coast of Peru (Salvin). 

Spring migration. — Almost all the spring records for the Atlantic" 
coast are in May, while migration in the Mississippi Valley begins in 
April: Camden, Ind., average of three years April 21, earliest April 
18, 1886 (Groninger); Keokuk, Iowa, average of eight years April 
30, earliest April 19, 1898 (Currier); Fort Lyon, Colo., April 25, 1886 
(Thorne) ; Indian Head, Saskatchewan, May 16, 1892 (Macoun) ; Fort 
Chipewyan, Alberta, May 24, 1901 (Preble); Great Bear Lake, Mac- 
kenzie, May 24, 1826 (Richardson); Kowak River, Alaska, May 29, 
1899 (Grinnell). Nonbreeding birds are found here and there in 
summer from Wisconsin (Kumlien and Hollister) to Massachusetts 
(Howe and Allen). 

Eggs have been taken at Fort George, Ungava, June 24, 1860 
(Drexler); Franklin Bay, Mackenzie, June 30, 1864 (young July 5, 
1865), (MacFarlane); St. Michael, Alaska, June 9, 1880 (specimens 
in United States National Museum) ; and young just hatched at Cape 
Blossom, Alaska, June 30, 1898 (Grinnell). 

Fall migration. — Like so many other sandpipers the semipalmated 
begins to move south so early that it appears in the United States" in 
July; southern Mississippi, average of three years July 16, earliest 
July 10, 1905 (Brodie and Kopman); Fernandina, Fla., July 14, 1906 
(Worthington) ; Porto Rico, August 11, 1901 (Bowdish); La Guaira, 
Venezuela, August 10 (Robinson and Richmond), and Mar ajo, Brazil, 


August 4 (Allen). Specimens were taken July 3, 1907, at Coronado 
de Terraba, Costa Rica (Carriker), but these may have been non- 
breeders that had not made the northward journey. Young birds 
migrate about a month later, and it is probably these that afford the 
following average dates: North River, Prince Edward Island, August 
8 (Bain); Long Island, New York, August 10 (Worthington) ; Beaver 
Pa., August 14 (Todd); Keokuk, Iowa, August 18 (Currier). 

The average date of the last one seen at Point Barrow, Alaska, is 
August 15, latest August 18, 1882 (Murdoch); Herschel Island, 
Yukon, August 2, 1894 (Russell); York Factory, Keewatin, August 
26, 1900 (Preble); Ottawa, average of the last one seen September 9, 
latest September 17, 1892 (White); Lewiston, Me., October 17, 1900 
(Johnson); Ossining, N. Y., October 20, 1885 (Fisher); Washington, 
D. C, October 26, 1887 (Richmond). 

Western Sandpiper. Ereunetes mauri Cabanis. 
Breeding range. — The western sandpiper's breeding range, as at 
present known, is a narrow strip along the northwestern coast of 
Alaska from the mouth of the Yukon (specimens in United States 
National Museum) to Cape Prince of Wales (Grinnell). 

Winter range. — Though breeding only on the northwest coast, this 
sandpiper is common in winter on the Atlantic coast from North 
Carolina (Bishop) to Florida (Scott). This long migration across the 
continent to the southeastward from the breeding grounds is very 
remarkable, and is not paralleled in the case of any other shorebird. 
It is, however, comparable with the migration of several species of 
ducks from the Mackenzie Valley to Chesapeake Bay. The species 
also winters from La Paz, Lower California (specimen in National 
Museum), to southern Mexico (Lawrence), Guatemala (Sharpe), Co- 
lombia (Ridgway), and Venezuela (Robinson), and undoubtedly to 
the Lesser Antilles, but its distribution in the West Indies is not yet 
known with any accuracy. 

Migration range. — In passing from the summer to the winter home, 
the western sandpiper comes east to the Atlantic coast at least as far 
north as Massachusetts (Henshaw), and sometimes is quite common 
in the fall on Long Island (Braislin) and the coast of New Jersey 
(Baily). The strange fact is that there are no corresponding records 
from the interior to indicate the route by which these birds reach 
New England. The species seems not to be known north of southern 
Wisconsin (Kumlien and Hollister), Colorado (Osburn), and southern 
Wyoming (specimen in National Museum), while in all of the Missis- 
sippi Valley between the river and the Rocky Mountains the species 
is so very rare as to make it improbable that any large part of the 
New England birds migrate through this section. In fall migra- 
tion the species is known west in the Aleutians to Unalaska Island 
(Palmer) . 


Spring migration. — Along the Atlantic coast the species is almost 
unknown in spring north of its winter range; the few known occur- 
rences are in May. To the westward some dates of spring arrival are: 
Galveston, Tex., March 24, 1891 (Singley) ; San Pedro River, Arizona, 
April 17, 1902 (Howard); Monterey, Calif., April 6, 1903 (Bren- 
inger) ; Redwood City, Calif., April 14, 1907 (Carriger and Pemberton) ; 
Corvallis, Oreg., April 21, 1899 (Woodcock); southern British Colum- 
bia, April 26, 1889, and April 20, 1905 (Brooks); Fort Kenai, Alaska, 
May 12, 1869 (Bischoff ) ; St. Michael, May 28, 1874 (Turner). 

Most of the individuals have left southern Lower California by 
May 10 (Belding) and the northern part by the middle of the month 
(Kaeding). The species was still present at Owen Lake, California, 
June 1, 1891 (Fisher). Eggs have been found at the mouth of the 
Yukon June 5 (specimens in United States National Museum) and 
near Cape Prince of Wales, June 28, 1898 (Grinnell). 

Fall migration. — The first fall migrants were noted at Tulare Lake, 
California, July 7-8, 1907 (Goldman), and the species was taken off 
the coast of Venezuela July 7, 1895 (Robinson). The first of these 
records probably represents birds in migration; the other, non- 
breeders that had summered far south of the breeding grounds. 
Some other fall records are: Southern British Columbia, average of 
five years August 14 as the date of fall arrival (Brooks); Semiahmoo 
Bay, Washington, July 15, 1857 (Kennerly) ; Santa Barbara, Calif., 
July 3, 1875 (Sharpe) ; Fort Bridger, Wyo., July 13, 1858, (Drexler) ; 
near Arco, Idaho, July 25, 1890 (Merriam); Rockport, Tex., August 
12, 1905 (Howell); Monomoy Island, Massachusetts, July 19, 1888 
(Brewster); Charleston, S. C, about July 8 (Wayne); Haiti, July 11, 
1883 (Stone); San Mateo, Tehuantepec, August 7, 1869 (specimen in 
United States National Museum). The latest date in southern 
British Columbia is September 11, 1889 (Brooks); Hayward, Calif., 
November 4, 1889 (Emerson) ; Monomoy Island, Massachusetts, 
September 19, 1888 (Brewster); Cape May County, N. J., September 
15, 1895 (Baily) ; Washington, D. C, September 22, 1894 (Hasbrouck). 

Sanderling. Calidris leucophsea (Pallas). 
Breeding range. — The sanderling is a cosmopolite, breeding and 
wintering in both hemispheres. It is known to breed north to 
Point Barrow, Alaska (Stone), Melville Island (Fisher), Grinnell Land 
(Feilden), both coasts of Greenland (Bessels and Winge), the Taimyr 
Peninsula, Siberia (Walter), and undoubtedly breeds on the New 
Siberian Islands (Newcombe). It breeds south to Iceland (Oates), to 
Cape Fullerton, Hudson Bay (Low), and to Franklin Bay, Mackenzie 

Winter range. — Some sanderlings pass in winter to central Argen- 
tina (Tambo Point, 44° S.: Durnford), and to Talcahuano, central 
Chile (Sharpe), 8,000 miles from the nearest breeding grounds; while 


others remain as common winter residents on the Atlantic coast of 
the southeastern United States north to North Carolina (Smithwick) 
and casually even to Massachusetts (Mackay). The species winters 
on the coast of Texas (Merrill) and on the Pacific coast regularly to 
central California (Cooper) and occasionally to Washington (Cooper 
and Suckley) . 

It occurs in fall migration on the Hawaiian Islands, where it has 
been taken from September 25 to October 14 and where a few may 
winter (Henshaw). 

The sanderlings of the eastern hemisphere winter from the Mediter- 
ranean and Japan south to southern Africa, the Malay Archipelago, 
and Oceania. 

Migration range. — The sanderling is common on the coasts of the 
world and on the larger inland waters. It is abundant on both coasts 
of North America and common on the Great Lakes. It has been 
recorded in migration from almost every State of the Union, but is 
quite rare in all the district between the Great Lakes and the Pacific 

Spring migration. — The northward movement begins in March, 
bringing the species the latter part of this month to the New England 
coast and to the central Mississippi Valley. Further advance is so 
slow that the sanderling is among the later birds to arrive at the 
breeding grounds, which are reached the first week in June. Some 
dates of spring arrival are: Fort Simpson, Mackenzie, May 29, 1904 
(Preble); Point Barrow, Alaska, latitude 71°, June 2, 1882 (Mur- 
doch), June 6, 1898 (Stone); Prince of Wales Strait, 73°, June 7, 
1851 (Armstrong); Bay of Mercy, 74°, June 3, 1852 (Armstrong); 
Winter Island, 66°, June 10, 1822 (Lyon); Igloolik, 69°, June 16, 
1823 (Parry); Grinnell Land, 82° 33', June 4, 1876 (Feilden); west 
coast of Greenland at 72°, May 29, 1850 (Sutherland); at 78°, June 
5, 1854 (Kane); Taimyr Peninsula, Siberia, 74°, June 4 (Seebohm). 
Specimens were taken in Chile in May (Schalow) ; in British Honduras 
May 18-20 (Salvin); southern Florida, May 25 (Scott); the coast of 
New Jersey, June 13 (Abbott). The species remains regularly on 
the New England coast and about the Great Lakes until the first 
week in June. The fact that nonbreeders remain through the summer 
far south of the nesting grounds has probably furnished the basis 
for the reports of the breeding of the species south of the Arctic 

The first eggs known to science were taken June 29, 1863, near 
Franklin Bay, Mackenzie (MacFarlane) , a locality where the species 
is very rare. The most northern known eggs were taken June 24, 
1876, near the north coast of Grinnell Land, at latitude 82° 33' 
(Feilden). Eggs were taken in July at Thank God Harbor, Green- 
land (Bessels), and both late June and early July on the Taimyr 
Peninsula, Siberia (Walter). 
52928°— Bull. 35—10 4 


Fall migration. — The sanderling was seen off the coast of Venezuela 
July 7, 1895 (Robinson), but regular fall migration does not begin 
until some weeks later, as shown by the following dates of fall arrival, 
which in each case are considerably earlier than the average: Big 
Stick Lake, Saskatchewan, July 19, 1906 (Bent); Lincoln, Nebr., 
August 7, 1900 (Wolcott); Toronto, Ontario, July 16, 1898 (Nash); 
Newfoundland, August 2, 1887 (Palmer); Erie, Pa., July 27, 1900 
(Todd); Long Island, New York, July 20, 1900 (Scott); San Mateo, 
Tehuantepec, August 5, 1869 (Sumichrast) . The last was seen at 
Point Barrow, August 27, 1897 (Stone); St. Michael, Alaska, Septem- 
ber 11, 1899 (Bishop); Homer, Alaska, August 29, 1901 (Chapman); 
Prince of Wales Strait, August 30, 1850 (Armstrong) ; Grinnell Land, 
about August 31, 1882 (Greely); Prince Edward Island, October 30, 
1887 (Bain); Montreal, Canada, October 7, 1889 (Wintle); Lincoln, 
Nebr., October 4, 1898 (Bruner, Wolcott, and Swenk); Ottawa, On- 
tario, October 22, 1887 (White); Erie, Pa., November 17, 1902 (Todd). 
Marbled Godwit. Limosafedoa (Linn.). 

Breeding range. — Formerly the marbled godwit was a common 
breeder in northern Nebraska (Say), in northern Iowa south to about 
latitude 43° (Preston), and a few undoubtedly nested in Wisconsin, 
at about the same latitude (Kumlien and Hollister). It is not prob- 
able that the species now breeds in either State, and the principal 
summer home at the present time is from northern North Dakota 
(Rolfe) to the valley of the Saskatchewan (Bent). 

Winter range. — The species passes south in winter to southern 
Guatemala (Salvin) and Belize (Sclater and Salvin), and remains as 
far north as southern Lower California (Forrer) and the coasts of 
Louisiana (Beyer), Florida (Scott), and Georgia (Worthington) . 

Migration range. — On the way from the summer home to the winter, 
some individuals formerly took a course almost due east and appeared 
in the Maritime Provinces of Canada (Macoun) and on the coast of 
New England (Brown), becoming more common to the south until it 
would hardly have been called rare on Long Island and the New 
Jersey coast. At the present time it is almost unknown on the 
Atlantic coast north of Florida. There seem to be no winter records 
of the species in the West Indies, but as a rare visitant in fall migra- 
tion it has been recorded from Cuba (Gundlach), Porto Rico (Gund- 
lach), Grenada (Wells), Carriacou (Wells), and Trinidad islands 

A migration also takes place westward to the Pacific coast. Though 
the species is not known to breed within several hundred miles of the 
Rocky Mountains, yet it has been noted on the coast of southern 
Alaska (Osgood) nearly a thousand miles west of the nearest breeding 
grounds. This species therefore presents the unique spectacle of a, 
bird breeding in the middle of the American continent and migrating 


directly east and directly west to the ocean coasts. A wanderer was 
taken at Point Barrow, Alaska, August 26, 1897 (Stone), and several 
specimens have been taken on Hudson Bay (Preble). Individuals 
probably sometimes winter in California, as one was taken at Hum- 
boldt Bay, December 7, 1885 (Townsend), and at Lake Elsinore, 
February, 1902 (Nordhoff). 

Spring migration. — The marbled godwit is among the earlier 
migrants of the shorebirds; it reaches central Illinois in early April 
(Griffin) ; Heron Lake, Minnesota, average April 12, earliest April 8, 
1889 (Miller); Lincoln, Nebr., April 18, 1899 (Wolcott); Loveland, 
Colo., average April 27, earliest April 20, 1887 (Smith); Shoalwater 
Bay, Washington, April 13, 1854 (Cooper); southern Manitoba, 
average May 1, earliest April 29, 1901 (Wemyss); southern Sas- 
katchewan, average May 3, earliest April 16, 1907 (Lang). Nearly 
all of the few spring records on the Atlantic coast are in May. 

Eggs have been found at Oakland Valley, Iowa, April 20, 1878 
(Rice); Winnebago, Iowa, May 6, 1871 (Krider); Miner County, 
S. Dak., May 16, 1892 (Patton); Minnewaukan, N. Dak., May 22, 
1892 (Rolfe); in Grant County, Minn., May 24, 1876 (Sennett); and 
in southern Saskatchewan, May 29, 1905 (Bent). The birds and their 
young were common June 8, 1820, near the mouth of the Loup Fork 
of the Platte, Nebraska (Say). 

Fall migration. — The return movement begins in July, since 
migrants have been taken at Ugashik, Alaska, July 16, 1881 (Osgood), 
on the New Jersey coast late in the month (Stone), and on Pea and 
Bodie islands, North Carolina, July 11, 1904 (Bishop). A gunner 
who shot for the market near Newport, R. I., obtained only 26 of 
these godwits during eight seasons, the extreme dates ranging from 
August 6, 1873, to October 2, 1868 (Sturtevant). The latest date 
in Colorado is October 1, 1874 (Henshaw). 

Pacific Godwit. Limosa lapponica baueri Naum. 
The principal breeding range of the Pacific godwit is in northeastern 
Siberia, but . a few individuals cross to Alaska and breed from Un- 
alaska (Dall) to Kotzebue Sound (Grinnell). After the breeding 
season some wander northward to Point Barrow (Murdoch). They 
arrive on their breeding grounds early in May (Nelson), and are among 
the earliest of the waders to begin the fall migration (Nelson) . The 
latest one seen at Point Barrow -was August IS (Murdoch), and 
early in September the last have left North America. The migration 
route passes through the Pribilof Islands, Commander Islands, Japan, 
China, and the Philippines. The winter home is in Australia, New 
Zealand, the Malay Archipelago, and many of the islands of 
Oceania. The Pacific godwit has been noted several times in the 
Hawaiian Islands (Bryan), and a straggler was once taken at La 
Paz, Lower California (Belding). 


Hudsonian Godwit. Limosa hxmastica (Linn.). 

Breeding range. — The eggs of the Hudsonian godwit are known 
only from the Anderson River region of northwestern Mackenzie (Mac- 
Farlane), but since Edward A. Preble, of the Biological Survey, found 
the species common in July and August on the west coast of Hudson 
Bay, probably it breeds also not far north of this region. "The breed- 
ing range is probably the Barren Grounds from the mouth of the 
Mackenzie to Hudson Bay. 

Winter range. — The species winters in Argentina and Chile south 
to Chiloe Island (Sclater and Salvin) on the west coast and to the 
Strait of Magellan (Sharpe) and the Falkland Islands (Abbott). 
But it is rare in eastern Patagonia south of the Chubut River (Durn- 
ford), which is just opposite the southern limit on the western coast. 

Migration range. — The migration route between the winter and 
summer homes is not known. In fall migration the species appears 
rarely on the coast of Maine (Boardman) and more commonly in 
Massachusetts (Howe and Allen), Rhode Island (Sturtevant), and 
Long Island (Dutcher). Whither the birds go when they leave Long 
Island is as yet unknown. On the rest of the coast of the United 
States the species is known only as a very rare straggler. One acci- 
dental occurrence in Cuba (Gundlach) is the only record for the 
Greater Antilles, and in the Lesser Antilles it is known only from 
the extreme eastern end on Barbados (Feilden) and Trinidad 
(Leotaud). It occurs on the coast of British Guiana (Quelch) and 
in the interior of Brazil (Pelzeln). 

The species seems not to be recorded in spring anywhere on the 
Atlantic coast between Argentina and Long Island, with the excep- 
tion of a single pair seen May 8, 1906, near Rehoboth, Del. (Pennock). 
The very few records on Long Island (Sharpe) and in New England 
(Howe and Allen) during the spring indicate that at this season it 
is only a straggler along the Atlantic. It passes in spring migration 
up the Mississippi Valley, entering the United States through Louisi- 
ana (Beyer) and Texas (Sharpe) and passing north principally along 
the eastern edge of the plains. The migration route between Argen- 
tina and Texas is unknown, for there is not a single spring record in 
the whole distance, and records at any time in the year are limited 
to one on the coast of Peru, November 9, 1883 (MacFarlane) ; one 
in Cuba, no date specified (Gundlach); and very doubtful records 
for Colombia (Burger) and Costa Rica (Zeledon). 

From the above very meager data, it seems probable that the 
Hudsonian godwit has a migration route similar to that of the 
golden plover, with this important difference — that whereas the 
golden plover first goes eastward from its breeding grounds to the 
coast of Labrador and crossing the Gulf of St. Lawrence strikes out 
to sea from Nova Scotia, the Hudsonian godwit starts in a south- 


easterly course to and down the western shore of Hudson Bay and 
keeps much this same course overland to the coast of New England. 
Thence it goes directly across the ocean to the Lesser Antilles and 
British Guiana, and lastly south and southwest through central 
Brazil to the pampas of Argentina, and to the coast of central Chile. 
Judging by analogy from the golden plover, the spring migration 
route of the Hudsonian godwit is from the pampas of northwestern 
Argentina directly to the coast of Texas, and almost in one flight. 

This species is rare west of the Rocky Mountains. The British 
Museum contains specimens said to have been taken in California 
(Sharpe) , but as this is the only record for the State it needs confir- 
mation. A few specimens have been taken in Alaska from the 
Kenai Peninsula (Osgood) to the Yukon mouth (Dall and Bannister), 
Nulato (Sharpe), and Point Barrow (Stone) on the north, but there 
is no evidence that the species breeds west of the Mackenzie River. 
Though the Hudsonian godwit is now very rare on the New England 
coast, and has been since about 1886, yet previously it was so com- 
mon that a gunner near Newport, R. I., records the shooting of 104 
birds in the years 1867-1874 (Sturtevant). 

Spring migration. — The species arrives on the coast of Texas in 
April (Sharpe) and has been recorded at Lawrence, Kans., as early 
as April 19, 1873 (Snow); St. Louis, Mo., April 19, 1872 (Hurter); 
in Grant County, Minn., April 25, 1876 (Sennett); Indian Head, 
Saskatchewan, May 11, 1892 (Macoun); Fort Kenai, Alaska, May 5, 
1869 (BischofT). Specimens were taken on the Falkland Islands as 
late as May 20, 1860 (Abbott), and in Argentina to May 24 (Sharpe). 
The earliest eggs taken were on June 7, 1862, at Fort Anderson 

Fall migration. — A Biological Survey party found the Hudsonian 
godwit already in southward migration July 19, 1900, near York 
Factory, Keewatin (Preble); it was noted July 29, 1869, on the coast 
of Rhode Island (Sturtevant) ; it arrives in August in the Lesser An- 
tilles (Leotaud); in September in Brazil (Pelzeln); and by early 
November has appeared at the extreme southern limit of the range 
(Durnford). It is probably the arrival of young birds that is recorded 
at Barbados (Feilden) in October, with October 7 as the average of 
three years arid October 5, 1886, as the earliest. 

The la"st seen near Cape Churchill, Hudson Bay, in 1900, was on 
August 24 (Preble); Toronto, Ontario, October 20, 1890 (Fleming); 
Montreal, Canada, October 11, 1895 (Wintle); Rhode Island, October 
13, 1873 (Sturtevant), and Massachusetts, November 3 (Howe and 

Black-tailed Godwit. Limosa limosa (Linn.). 

The black-tailed godwit is confined to the Eastern Hemisphere, 
breeding in Iceland, and from Holland and southern Russia north to 
the Arctic Circle and east to western Siberia. It winters in southern 


Europe and south to Abyssinia. A specimen was taken about 1830 
near Godthaab, Greenland (Reinhard), and there are other less cer- 
tain records of its occurrence in that country. 

Green-shank. Glottis nebularia (Gunn.). 

The green-shank has a very wide range in the Eastern Hemisphere. 
It breeds in Scotland, northern Scandinavia, and east to northern 
Siberia; it migrates along the coasts of both Europe and Asia, even 
to Japan and the Commander Islands; it winters from southern 
Europe and India to southern Africa and Australia. 

The only record for the United States is that of three specimens 
taken by Audubon, May 28, 1832, on Sand Key, near Cape Sable, 
Florida. The species has also been recorded as an accidental visitant 
to Chile (Schlegel) and Buenos Aires, Argentina (Seebohm). 

Common Red-shank. Totanus totanus (Linn.). 

The common red-shank is scarcely entitled to a place among North American birds. 
Its claim rests only on the description by Swainson and Richardson of a specimen 
from Hudson Bay which they said existed in the British Museum. 

The common red-shank is a well-known species of Europe and Asia, where it breeds 
from Iceland and the Faroe Islands to southern Siberia and Turkestan and south to 
northern Africa. It winters in southern Europe, throughout most of Africa, and in 
Asia south to India and the Malay Archipelago. 

Greater Yellow-legs. Totanus melanoleucus (Gmel.). 

Breeding range. — Knowledge of the summer home of the greater 
yellow-legs is much lacking in defmiteness. One of the best known 
facts is that the bird does not go far north, since it is one of the few 
species of the family not found on the Arctic coast, nor even to the 
Arctic Circle. The most northern records are: Near Fort Chimo, 
Ungava (Turner); accidental once at Cumberland Sound (Kumlien); 
on the west shore of Hudson Bay to about Cape Eskimo (Preble); 
Fort Simpson, Mackenzie (Ross); and to Kupreanof Island (Osgood), 
Lake Iliamna (Osgood), and St. Paul Island (Seale) — all in Alaska. 
The southern limit of the breeding range is more difficult to deter- 
mine, since the mere presence of the bird in summer is not sufficient 
proof that it is breeding. Individuals are found during every month 
of the year in the West Indies, Bahamas, Florida, Texas (Sennett), 
and California (Grinnell), but it is not probable that the species breeds 
in any of these localities. 

Eggs taken in British Columbia at Fort George and Fort St. James 
(specimens in United States National Museum) are probably the only 
certainly identified eggs of the species known. The bird probably 
breeds in British Columbia as far south as Clinton (Rhoads), and east- 
ward across Canada, north of about the fiftieth parallel of latitude. 

Winter range. — The greater yellow-legs winters to the southern end of 
the mainland of South America. To the north it occurs on both coasts 
and in Central America, Mexico, and the West Indies to the coast of 


Georgia (Helme) — occasionally to North Carolina (Bishop) — Loui- 
siana (Edwards), Texas (Merrill), and California. In this latter State 
it winters on the coast north at least to Los Angeles County (Grinnell), 
and in the interior to Owen Lake (Fisher). 

Spring migration. — The advance begins in March, and the first 
reach Raleigh, N. C, on the average April 3, earliest March 22, 1893 
(Brimley) ; Long Island, New York, average April 22, earliest April 
17, 1896 (Worthington) ; eastern Massachusetts, average April 26, 
earliest April 22, 1893 (Browne); southern Maine, average May 9, 
earliest April 26, 1896 (Morrell); city of Quebec, Canada, average 
April 30, earliest April 18, 1903 (Dionne); Point de Monts, Quebec, 
average May 5, earliest April 26, 1885 (Comeau). Lake Mistassini, 
Quebec, May 7, 1885 (Macoun). Some other early dates along the 
Atlantic coast are: Patapsco Marsh, Maryland, March 26, 1875 (Kirk- 
wood); Carlisle, Pa., March 19, 1844 (Baird); Westport Harbor, 
Massachusetts, March 10, 1899 (Howe and Sturtevant). The average 
date of arrival in central Illinois is April 6, earliest March 22, 1890 
(Brown); Chicago, 111., average April 24, earliest April 14, 1895 
(Blackwelder) ; Oberlin, Ohio, average April 18, earliest April 12, 1905 
(Jones); southern Michigan, average April 27, earliest April 24, 1897 
(Hankinson); southern Ontario, average April 28, earliest April 13, 
1896 (Taverner); Ottawa, Ontario, average May 9, earliest April 28, 
1905 (White); Keokuk, Iowa, average April 14, earliest March 26, 
1893 (Currier); Elk River, Minn., average April 21, earliest April 17, 
1886 (Bailey) ; Aweme, Manitoba, average May 4, earliest April 30, 
1902 (Criddle); Kansas City, Mo., March 9, 1903 (Bryant); Manhat- 
tan, Kans., March 11, 1883 (Lantz); Lincoln, Nebr., April 10, 1899 
(Wolcott); Fort Lyon, Colo., March 28, 1886 (Thorne); Loveland, 
Colo., March 26, 1890 (Smith); Cheyenne, Wyo., April 11, 1888 
(Bond); Great Falls, Mont., April 17, 1892 (Williams); Rathdrum, 
Idaho, April 20, 1901 (Danby); Fort Simpson, Mackenzie, May 23, 
1860 (Ross), May 16, 1904 (Preble); Chilliwack, British Columbia, 
March 28, 1888 and 1889 (Brooks); Fort Kenai, Alaska, May 6, 1869 

Those individuals that are to breed leave the United States by the 
first week in June. The species is common in Chile and Argentina 
through the winter and to early April, when most leave for the north, 
but some remain the whole summer in Argentina (Holland), 6,000 
miles south of the breeding range. 

Eggs have been taken at Fort St. James, British Columbia, May 31, 

1889 (MacFarlane) , and at Fort George, British Columbia, May 20, 

1890 (specimens in United States National Museum). The earliest 
downy young noted in 1901 in the Caribou district, British Columbia, 
were seen on June 15 (Brooks). 

Fall migration. — Hardly six weeks elapse between the passage 
of the last northward-bound migrants on Long Island, New York, 


and the appearance of the first fall migrants; on the average the last 
in spring pass May 28, latest June 14, 1901 (Scott), while the average 
date of fall arrival is July 19, earliest July 10, 1887 (Scott). The 
larger flights there do not come until August, and the species is most 
common in September and October. Formerly this was one of the 
common species of shorebirds and one much sought by gunners. 
A hunter near Newport, R. I., shot 1,362 greater yellow-legs in the 
eight seasons 1867-1874, on dates ranging from July 20, 1870, to 
November 4, 1870; his highest score, 419 birds, was in 1873, from 
August 19 to October 19. Dates of fall arrival are: Granville, Wash., 
July 7, 1897 (Young); Utah Lake, Utah, July 26, 1872 (Henshaw); 
Aweme, Manitoba, average July 29, earliest July 27, 1901 (Criddle); 
Lipscomb, Tex. , one June 29, common July 8, 1903 (Howell) ; Pacheco, 
Chihuahua, July 30, 1905 (Brown); Toronto, Ontario, July 28, 1891 
(Nash); Cullingham Cove, Ungava, July 31, 1891 (Norton); Anti- 
costi Island, July 8, 1881 (Brewster); Erie, Pa., July 28, 1896 (Todd); 
Washington, D. C, July 24, 1890 (Richmond); Bahama Islands, 
July 6, 1904 (Allen) ; Barbados, West Indies, July 25, 1886 (Manning) ; 
Bonaire Island, off the coast of Venezuela, July 21, 1892 (Hartert). 
Dates of the last seen are : Near Fort Churchill, Keewatin, August 
8, 1900 (Preble); Hayes Run, Keewatin, August 30, 1900 (Preble); 
Oxford House, Keewatin, September 10, 1900 (Preble); Cumberland 
Sound, September 14, 1877 (Kumlien) ; near Fort Chimo, Ungava, 
September 19, 1882 (Turner); Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, October 
21, 1884 (Nash); Chilliwack, British Columbia, November 17, 1888, 
(Brooks) , November 21, 1889 (Brooks) ; Long Island, New York, aver- 
age November 5, latest November 20, 1901 (Scott). The late dates 
of departure explain the name winter yellow-legs for this species. 

Yellow-legs. Totanus flavipes (Gmel.). 
Breeding range. — The principal summer home of the yellow-legs is 
the Barren Grounds and neighboring regions to the southward. The 
species ranges north to southern Ungava (Selwyn) , central Keewatin 
(Preble) , and nearly to the Arctic coast in northern Mackenzie (Mac- 
Farlane) . It breeds north to Kotzebue Sound (Townsend) and Fort 
Yukon (Dall and Bannister), but apparently does not occur on the 
northern coast of Alaska. The southern limit of the breeding range 
is imperfectly known; the species breeds in Yukon at least south to 
Lake Marsh (Bishop), and in the interior probably to southern 
Alberta (Macoun), southern Saskatchewan (Macoun), and northern 
Quebec (Macoun). 

Winter range. — The yellow-legs passes south in winter to the Strait 
of Magellan (Gay) and occurs at this season quite generally over the 
southern half of South America, and even in the mountains up to 
10,000 feet (Sclater). Winter records north of this region are few, 
and probably only a comparatively small number regularly winter 

Bui. 35, Biological Survey, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture. 

Plate I. 

Yellow-legs (Totanus flavipes) 


north of South America. A few winter in southern Mexico, as far 
north as Cozumel Island (Sharpe) and La Barca, Jalisco (Goldman) ; 
a few are noted occasionally in Louisiana (Beyer) and in Florida in 
winter (Pillsbury), and the species occurs rarely in the Bahamas at 
this season (Bonhote) . 

Migration range. — The yellow-legs is common on the Atlantic coast 
in fall and many pass through the Lesser Antilles. In this latter 
region it is practically unknown in spring, and it is rare in spring 
migration on the Atlantic coast north of Long Island, New York. 
These facts would seem to indicate that some yellow-legs pursue 
different migration routes in fall and spring. The species is a common 
migrant in the Mississippi Valley both spring and fall, and hence 
probably most of those that go south through the Lesser Antilles 
return in spring to their breeding grounds by way of the Mississippi 

The species is not common on the Atlantic coast north of the Gulf 
of St. Lawrence, though one was taken October 8, 1882, near Fort 
Chimo, Ungava (Turner), and two have been taken in southern 
Greenland (Winge). 

The yellow-legs is rarely seen west of the Rocky Mountains, but a 
few occur along the coast from northern Alaska (Grinnell) to southern 
Lower California (Brewster). One was taken June 11, 1890, on St. 
Paul Island (Palmer) . 

Spring migration. — The following dates show the usual time at 
which the yellow-legs arrives in its northward migration: Northern 
Texas, average March 26, earliest March 22, 1899 (Mayer); central 
Missouri, average April 14, earliest April 9, 1903 (Bryant); Keokuk, 
Iowa, average April 16, earliest March 11, 1894 (Currier); central 
Nebraska, average April 28, earliest March 27, 1900 (Wolcott); 
Chicago, 111., average April 23, earliest April 15, 1899 (Gault) ; Oberlin, 
Ohio, average April 28, earliest April 23, 1904 (Jones); Raleigh, 
N. C, average April 1, earliest March 25, 1893 (Brimley). The fol- 
lowing are dates of occurrence somewhat earlier than the average: 
Cumberland, Ga., March 12, 1902 (Helme); Washington, D. C, 
March 12, 1906 (Green); Havre de Grace, Md., March 15, 1895 (Kirk- 
wood); near Newport, R. I., April 28, 1902 (King); Godbout, Que- 
bec, May 5, 1888 (Comeau) ; San Antonio, Tex., March 20, 1903 (Nor- 
ton); Bay St. Louis, Miss., March 13, 1902 (Allison); Sioux City, 
Iowa, March 11, 1864 (Feilner); southern Ohio, March 18, 1901 
(Henninger); Lanesboro, Minn., April 7, 1890 (Hvoslef); Fort Lyon, 
Colo., March 30, 1886 (Thorne); Indian Head, Saskatchewan, April 
25, 1892 (Macoun); Edmonton, Alberta, May 1, 1901 (Preble); Fort 
Reliance, Yukon, May 3 (Nelson) ; Fort Resolution, Mackenzie, May 
5, 1860 (Kennicott); Willow River, Mackenzie, May 9, 1904 (Mills 
and Jones); Fort Reliance, Mackenzie, May 13, 1834 (Back); Fort 


Franklin, Mackenzie, May 16, 1826 (Richardson); Fort Anderson, 
Mackenzie, May 27, 1865 (MacFarlane) . The yellow-legs is thus 
about the earliest shorebird to reach high northern latitudes. 

Eggs were taken at Fort Resolution June 1, 1860 (Kennicott); 
near Fort Anderson, June 15, 1863, June 20, 1864, and June 16, 1865 
(MacFarlane); and downy young July 1, 1899, at Lake Marsh, 
Yukon (Bishop). 

Fall migration. — Like so many other waders, the yellow-legs begins 
its southward journey early in July, so early indeed that migrants 
have appeared on the Bermudas by July 13 (Reid). Other dates of 
fall arrival are: Chilliwack, British Columbia, July 25, 1889 (Brooks) ; 
Fort Lyon, Colo., July 23, 1884 (Thorne); Aweme, Manitoba, July 
26, 1901 (Criddle); Toronto, Ontario, July 18, 1891 (Nash); near 
Chicago, 111., July 3, 1893 (Dunn), abundant by July 25 (Parker); 
Long Island, New York, July 14, 1887 (Scott), July 9, 1905 (Latham) ; 
Long Beach, New Jersey, July 9, 1877 (Scott) ; James Island, Florida, 
July 20, 1901 (Williams); Key West, Fla., July 16, 1888 (Scott); 
Inagua, Bahamas, July 28, 1891 (Cory); Jamaica, August 2, 1891 
(Field); the average date of arrival in the Lesser Antilles is about 
July 25, earliest July 4, 1888 (Feilden) ; Santo Domingo, Venezuela, 
July 24, 1903 (Briceno) ; Fortin Page, Argentina, September 13, 1890 
(Kerr). The yellow-legs is one of the earliest birds to migrate in 
fall, and the greater number have left the breeding grounds by the 
latter part of August. A few linger quite late, as shown by the fol- 
lowing dates of the last seen: Near Fort Chimo, Ungava, October 8, 
1882 (Turner); Montreal, Canada, October 7, 1898 (Wintle); Scotch 
Lake, New Brunswick, October 28, 1901 (Moore); Ottawa, Ontario, 
October 18, 1901 (White); Lanesboro, Minn., October 11, 1888 
(Hvoslef ) ; Oberlin, Ohio, October 18, 1899 (Jones); Long Island, 
New York, October 18, 1905 (Latham); Erie, Pa., October 14, 1893 
(Todd); Lincoln, Nebr., November 17, 1900 (Wolcott). 

Solitary Sandpiper. Helodromas solitarius (Wils.). 
Breeding range. — Few facts are known concerning the breeding 
range of this species. It has been seen in summer over a great extent 
of country ; the young only a few days old have been noted in widely 
separated localities, but the nest and eggs are almost unknown. 
The species as a whole, including the eastern and western forms, 
ranges north in summer to Newfoundland (Reeks) ; Fort Chimo, 
northern Ungava (Turner) ; Great Bear Lake, Mackenzie (Richard- 
son) ; and to Kowak River, in northwestern Alaska (Grinnell) . The 
southern limit of the breeding range is entirely undetermined. The 
birds stay in summer as far south as Pennsylvania (Todd), Illinois 

(Ridgway), Nebraska (Cary), Colorado (Cooke), and Washington 


Winter range. — There seem to be no winter records whatever of 

the western form of the solitary sandpiper. There is every reason 


for believing that it winters in South America, and has not been 
distinguished there from the eastern form. The following state- 
ment of the winter range doubtless includes both forms, but it is not 
safe to conclude that the eastern form goes to eastern South America 
and the western form to the Pacific coast. It is known that the 
eastern form migrates to the Pacific coast of Mexico, and it is prob- 
able that thence southward the two forms commingle both in migra- 
tion and during the winter. The species as a whole ranges south in 
winter to Buenos Aires, Argentina (Barrows) ; to Caiza, in south- 
eastern Bolivia (Salvadori) ; and to Chorillos, central Peru (Tacza- 
nowski). It occurs regularly also at this season in northern South 
America to Guiana (Quelch), Venezuela (Berlepsch and Hartert), 
and Colombia (Salvin and Godman). North of South America it is 
not common anywhere in winter, and it may not winter at any of 
the following places, but it has been noted as late as December in 
Porto Rico (Bowdish), Costa Rica (Todd), Yucatan (Sharpe), Vera- 
cruz (Sharpe) , and northern Lower California (Stephens) . 

Migration range. — A specimen was taken in Greenland August 1, 
1878, at Kangek, latitude 64° (Hagerup) ; and one of the eastern 
form was taken October 28, at San Jose del Cabo, Lower California 
(Brewster) . 

Spring migration. — The following records include both the eastern 
and western forms: The species arrives in the southern United 
States in March; Tallahassee, Fla., March 25, 1901 (Williams); 
Coosada, Ala., March 28, 1878 (Brown); Bay St. Louis, Miss., March 
17, 1902 (Allison); New Orleans, La., average March 16, earliest 
March 5, 1900 (Allison); Boerne, Tex., March 25, 1880 (Brown); 
while some of the earliest records in California are at Los Angeles, 
April 21, 1897 (Grinnell), and Gridley, April 23, 1891 (Belding). 
Further progress northward is decidedly slow, as shown by the fol- 
lowing dates of arrival: Raleigh, N. C, average April 24, earliest 
April 4, 1889 (Brimley) ; near Asheville, N. C, average April 22, 
earliest April 9, 1890 (Cairns) ; Washington, D. C, average April 28, 
earliest April 25, 1900 (Preble); Englewood, N. J., average April 30, 
earliest April 28, 1900 (Lemmon) ; near New York City, average May 
4, earliest April 30, 1899 (Thayer); Renovo, Pa., average May 4, 
earliest May 1, 1897 (Pierce); eastern Massachusetts, average May 
6, earliest May 2, 1891 (Long) ; southwestern Maine, average May 11, 
earliest April 28, 1903 (Swain) ; Petitcodiac, New Brunswick, May 14, 
1887 (Willis); Pictou, Nova Scotia, May 7, 1894 (Hickman); Lake 
Mistassini, Quebec, May 23, 1885 (Macoun); central Iowa, average 
April 25, earliest April 10, 1899 (Savage) ; Chicago, 111., average April 
23, earliest April 7, 1887 (Coale) ; Bloomington, Ind., average May 2, 
earliest April 23, 1903 (McAtee) ; Oberlin, Ohio, average April 29, 
earliest April 18, 1909 (Jones); Ottawa, Ontario, average May 11, 


earliest May 2, 1896 (White); southern Wisconsin, average May 
6, earliest April 25, 1897 (Russel); Lanesboro, Minn., average 
May 6, earliest April 24, 1888 (Hvoslef) ; near San Antonio, 
Tex., average April 17, earliest March 25, 1880 (Brown); central 
Kansas, average May 2, earliest April 23, 1885 (Kellogg); Har- 
risburg, N. Dak., average May 5, earliest May 3, 1904 (Eastgate); 
Aweme, Manitoba, average May 13, earliest May 9, 1906 (Griddle) ; 
Colorado Springs, Colo., May 1, 1882 (Allen and Brewster); Terry, 
Mont., May 7, 1903, May 9, 1904 (Cameron); Athabaska Landing, 
Alberta, May 5, 1901 (Preble); Sandy Creek, Alberta, May 14, 1903 
(Preble); Fort Providence, Mackenzie, Ma}^ 14, 1905 (Jones); Fort 
Simpson, Mackenzie. May 10, 1904 (Preble); Great Bear Lake, May 
14, 1826 (Richardson); Fort Steilacoom, Wash., May 6, 1856 (Suck- 
ley); Chilliwack, British Columbia, May 7, 1888 (Brooks); Nulato, 
Alaska, May 15, 1867, May 18, 1868 (Dall) ; Kowak River, Alaska, 
May 18, 1899 (Grinnell). 

One of the parties of the Biological Survey took downy young 
June 23, 1903, at Charlie Creek, Alaska (Osgood); eggs are reported 
from central Alberta, June 24, 1908, June 15, 1908, June 1 and June 
9, 1909 (Thayer and Arnold), and young in the nest were found June 
19, 1908, at Stony Plain, Alberta (Stansell). 

Fall migration. — Early dates in the fall south of the breeding 
range are: Washington, D. C, average July 21, earliest July 15, 
1899 (Howell); Raleigh, N. C, average July 25, earliest July 14; 
1894 (Brimley) ; Key West, Fla., July 28, 1888 (Scott); New Orleans, 
La., July 20, 1899 (Kopman); Kerrville, Tex., July 20, 1903 (Lacey); 
Camp Apache, Ariz., July 29, 1873 (Henshaw); Bermudas, July 

19, 1874 (Reid); St. Croix, West Indies, July 26, 1857 (Newton); 
San Jose del Cabo, Lower California, August 25, 1887 (Brewster); 
near Buenos Aires, Argentina, August 20, 1880 (Barrows). 

Dates of the last seen are: Chilliwack, British Columbia, Septem- 
ber 13, 1889 (Brooks); Aweme, Manitoba, September 18, 1904 (Crid- 
dle); Chicago, 111., October 6, 1899 (Gault); Lincoln, Nebr., October 

20, 1900 (Wolcott); Ottawa, Ontario, October 31, 1906 (White); 
Hillsboro, Iowa, October 20, 1899 (Savage); Delavan, Wis., October 
20, 1892 (Hollister); Lexington, Ky., October 23, 1904 (Dean); 
Pictou, Nova Scotia, October 8, 1894 (Hickman); Scotch Lake, 
New Brunswick, October 5, 1901 (Moore); southwestern Maine, 
October 21, 1904 (Norton); Renovo, Pa., October 14, 1897 (Pierce); 
Chesapeake Beach, Md., November 2, 1906 (Riley); Beaver, Pa., 
November 28, 1901 (Todd). 

Western Solitary Sandpiper. Helodromas solitarius cinnamomeus (Brewst.). 

The western solitary sandpiper occurs in western North America 
and ranges at least as far east as Great Slave Lake (Preble), Atha- 
baska Lake (Preble), the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains 


in Colorado (Henshaw), and to central Texas (Gaut). It migrates 
throughout western Mexico and east to Veracruz (Sartorius) and 
Tehuantepec (Sumichrast). As already stated, the winter range 
has not yet been determined. 

Green Sandpiper. Helodromas ocrophus (Linn.). 
The green sandpiper, an Old World species, is widely distributed 
breeding from the Pyrenees to southern Siberia, principally in the 
mountains. It winters from southern Europe and Japan, through- 
out Africa, and to Ceylon. It is supposed to have occurred at Hali- 
fax, Nova Scotia (Harting), and in the Hudson Bay Company's 
territory (Nuttall), but the evidence is not conclusive. 

Wood Sandpiper. Rhyacophilus glareola (Linn.). 
The wood sandpiper is one of the best known of the Old World 
sandpipers. It breeds over most of Europe and Asia from the valley 
of the Danube and northern China to the Arctic coast. It winters 
from the Mediterranean and India to southern Africa and the Malay 
Archipelago. The only record of the species in North America is 
that of a single specimen taken May 27, 1894, on Sanak Island, 
Alaska (Littlejohn). 

Willet. Catoptrophorus semipalmatus (Gmel.). 

Breeding range. — The breeding range of the willet on the Atlantic 
coast has become much restricted of late years. Formerly it bred 
north, commonly to New Jersey (Giraud) , and rarely to Sable Island 
(eggs in United States, National Museum), Yarmouth (Bryant), 
and Halifax (Brewer), Nova Scotia. It still breeds rather commonly 
on the islands off the coast of Virginia (Dutcher), and a few may 
breed in extreme southern New Jersey, but probably at present no 
willets breed between there and Nova Scotia, where in 1903 it was 
reported abundant at Barrington (Trotter). It breeds along the 
south Atlantic coast to Florida (Scott), and throughout the Bahamas 

Winter range. — On the Pacific coast it migrates in winter to Santa 
Lucia, southern Peru (Taczanowski), and on the Atlantic coast 
to the Amazon River (Pelzeln) . It occurs also in winter in northern 
South America (Quelch), the Lesser and the Greater Antilles, the 
Bahamas (Bonhote), Florida (Worthington), and casually in South 
Carolina (Hoxie). 

Spring migration. — The willet starts north in March. Some dates 
of spring arrival are: Hog Island, Virginia, average April 12, earliest 
April 7, 1888 (Doughty); southern New Jersey, average April 19, 
earliest April 6, 1877 (Scott); Erie, Pa., April 24, 1902 (Todd). The 
species has been recorded in migration to Newfoundland (Reeks), 
but it is not known to breed on that island. 

Eggs have been taken in the Bahamas from May 15 (Cory) to 
July 6 (Allen); Sapelo Island, Georgia, April 22, 1888 (specimens in 


United States National Museum) ; Beaufort, N. C, May 8 (specimens 
in United States National Museum); Cobbs Island, Virginia, May 
25, 1875 (Baily); Warner House, N. J., May 19, 1884 (Bellows); 
Madison, Conn., June 5, 1873 (Merriam); and on Sable Island in 
June (specimens in United States National Museum). 

Fall migration. — A gunner who shot for the market near Newport, 
K. I., obtained 106 willets during eight seasons, 1867-1874, on dates 
ranging from July 11, 1871, to September 19, 1869 (Sturtevant) . 
One bird was seen July 2, 1902, at Sakonnet, R. I. (King). The 
average date of arrival of late years on Long Island, New York, has 
been August 13, earliest August 4, 1901 (Scott). The last was seen 
at Plymouth, Mass., October 4, 1852 (Browne); Long Island, New 
York, September 24, 1905 (Latham); southern New Jersey, average 
September 9, latest October 17, 1885 (Crane); Hog Island, Virginia, 
November 1, 1886, and October 27, 1887 (Doughty). 

Western Willet. Catoptrophorus semipalmatus inornatus (Brewst.). 
Breeding range. — The western willet breeds on the coasts of Texas 
(Merrill) and Louisiana (Beyer) and from northern Iowa (Berry), 
southern South Dakota (Cheney), and northern California (Beck- 
with; Christie), north to the southern portions of Manitoba (Thomp- 
son), Saskatchewan (Ferry), Alberta (Macoun), and to central Oregon 

Winter range. — The western willet winters on the coasts of Loui~ 
siana (Beyer) and Texas (Sennett) and on the coast of California 
north to Humboldt Bay (Townsend). In winter it ranges south into 
Mexico (Nelson) and probably to southern Guatemala (Salvin). It 
also passes eastward and winters on the Gulf coast of Florida (Scott). 

Spring migration. — Dates of spring arrival are: Stotesbury, Mo., 
April 8, 1894 (Surber); Keokuk, Iowa, April 30, 1892 (Currier); 
Lanesboro, Minn., April 26, 1879 (Hvoslef); central Kansas, average 
April 30, earliest April 28, 1883 (Lantz); northern Nebraska, earliest 
May 5, 1893 (Bates); northern North Dakota, average May 3, earliest 
May 1, 1901 (Eastgate); Indian Head, Saskatchewan, May 6, 1892 
(Macoun); northern Colorado, average May 1, earliest April 27, 

1887 (Smith); Cheyenne, Wyo., average May 4, earliest April 30, 

1888 (Bond); Salt Lake City, Utah, April 28, 1897 (Young); Lewis- 
ton, Mont., May 2, 1903 (Silloway) ; Ked Deer, Alberta, May 12, 1892 
(Farley); Halleck, Nev., May 5, 1871 (specimen in United States 
National Museum); Fort Klamath, Oreg., April 22, 1887 (Merrill). 

Eggs have been taken at Corpus Christi, Tex., May 17, 1882 (Goss) ; 
near Turtle Mountain, Manitoba, May 23, 1883 (Thompson); Oneida 
County, Idaho, May 21, 1879 (Anderson); near Beckwith, Calif., 
May 28, 1891 (Christie) ; Camp Harney, Oreg., May 8, 1878 (Bendire) ; 
southern Saskatchewan, June 14, 1906 (Bent). Thus the nesting 
season is about the same throughout the whole breeding range. 


Fall migration. — In fall the western willet wanders eastward far 
beyond the breeding range, even to the Atlantic coast, as shown by 
the following records: Chicago, 111., September 2, 1906 (Armstong 
and Lawson) ; Miller, Ind., August 14, 1897 (Woodruff) ; Oberlin, Ohio, 
September 17, 1906 (Jones); Toronto, Ontario, July 20, 1898 (Flem- 
ing); Stony Creek, Conn., August 15, 1897 (Bishop); Keokuk, Iowa, 
October 27, 1896 (Currier). A wanderer far north of the breeding 
range was taken at Victoria, British Columbia, August 18, 1898 

Wandering Tattler. Heteractitis incanus (Gmel.) : 

The first information of the breeding range of the wandering 
tattler was obtained in 1904 by one of the parties of the Biological 
Survey. A downy young was shot September 5 on Macmillan River 
in east central Yukon (Osgood). July 28, 1906, a pair were seen by 
Charles Sheldon near Mount McKinley, south central Alaska, under 
conditions that left no doubt that they were breeding in the imme- 
diate vicinity. It is not probable that the species breeds anywhere 
south of Alaska, and yet it occurs in the Hawaiian Islands every 
month of the year (Henshaw) ; on the coast of California every 
month from March to October (Bryant), and has been taken July 2, 
1900, on the island of Guam, and July 17, 1904, on the Philippine 
Islands (specimens in the United States National Museum). The 
species ranges north to Nulato, Alaska (Dall), where it is said by the 
natives to breed, and occurs about as far north on the Asiatic side 
of Bering Sea to Plover Bay (Bean), where it was taken in fall migra- 

The wandering tattler winters in lower California, the Galapagos 
(Sharpe), the Hawaiian Islands (Henshaw), and throughout Oceania 
to the New Hebrides. In migration it occurs on the Commander 
Islands, along the whole western coast of North America from Mexico 
to Alaska, and has occurred inland, accidentally at Crater Lake, 
Oreg. (Bendire), and on the eastern shore of James Bay (Bell). 

Spring migration begins in March, bringing the birds to the coast 
of California (Grinnell) by the latter part of the month. The Aleu- 
tian Islands are reached the middle of May (Nelson), and the most 
northern part of the range by the latter part of the month (Dall). 

On the coast of central California, nearly 2,000 miles south of the 
breeding grounds, the first fall migrants appear with great regularity 
within a few days of the middle of July, and are common a few days 
later (Loomis). At about the same time the birds return from the 
interior of Alaska to the coast, and are common around Bering Sea 
for the next two months (Nelson). The last leave the northern part 
of the range about the middle of September (Nelson) and desert the 
Aleutians a month later (Bishop). 


Ruff. Machetes pugnax (Linn.). 

Though an Old World species, the ruff has been taken many 
times in the Western Hemisphere at widely separated localities as 
follows: One at Nanortalik, on the southwest coast of Greenland, 
(Fenckers); Toronto, Ontario, spring of 1882 (Seton); English Lake, 
Ind., April 12, 1905 (Deane); a specimen in the Ohio State Uni- 
versity collection bears the label, " Northern Canada, April 28, 
1877" (Dawson); Licking Reservoir, Ohio, November 10, 1872 
(Wheaton); Columbus, Ohio, April 28, 1878 (Jones); Grand Manan, 
New Brunswick, no date (Boardman); Cole Harbor, near Halifax, 
Nova Scotia, May 27, 1892 (Brewster); Upton, Me., September 8, 
1874 (Brewster); Scarborough, Me., April 10, 1870 (Smith); Cam- 
den, Me., September 14, 1900 (Thayer); Seabrook, N. H., Septem- 
ber 24, 1907 (Hardy); Newburyport, Mass., May 20, 1871 (Brew- 
ster); Chatham, Mass., September 12, 1880 (Grinnell); Nantucket, 
Mass., July, 1901 (Palmer); near Sakonnet Point, Rhode Island, 
July 30, 1900 (Hathaway); Point Judith, Rhode Island, August 31, 
1903 (King); Long Island, New York, one in fall, 1845 (Lawrence), 
one in October, 1851 (Lawrence), one in May 18, 1868 (Chapman); 
another specimen seems to have been taken on Long Island, but the 
date is not recorded (DeKay); Barnegat, N. J., no date (Chapman); 
Four Mile Run, Va., September 3, 1894 (Palmer); Raleigh, N. C, 
May 6, 1892 (Brimley); Barbados Island, one before 1848 (Schom- 
burgk), and one in 1878 (Feilden) ; one in " Spanish America, " which 
probably means near the headwaters of the Rio Negro in northern 
South America (Pelzeln). 

It is thus seen that the ruff has been taken in this hemisphere 
at least 27 times. Seven of the specimens have no date recorded; 
9 were secured in the spring between April 10 and May 27; the other 
11 were taken in the fall from July 30 to November 10. As would 
be expected, most of the specimens are from near the Atlantic coast; 
only 5 occurred in the interior, the westernmost being the one at 
English Lake, Indiana. 

The breeding range of the ruff is from Great Britain to central 
Siberia and north to the Arctic coast. The bird winters in Burma, 
India, and to the southern part of Africa. It has wandered east in 
Asia to Japan and the Commander Islands, but has not yet been de- 
tected on the western coast of America. 

Upland Plover. Bartramia longicauda (Bechst.). 

Breeding range. — The upland or field plover, sometimes called the 
Bartramian sandpiper, is one of the few shorebirds that nest commonly 
in the Mississippi Valley. Early in the settlement of this region, 
much more than half the upland plovers probably nested within 
the boundaries of the United States. The center of abundance during 
the breeding season was the prairie region from Kansas to Manitoba. 

Bui. 35, Biological Survey, U. S Dept. of Agriculture. 

Plate II. 

Upland Plover (Bartramia longicauda). 


The numbers were not greatly diminished so long as this region was 
used for stock purposes, but recently the birds have rapidly decreased. 
At the present time the species breeds south to southern Oregon 
(Merrill); northern Utah (Ridgway); northern Colorado (Rockwell), 
central Oklahoma (Merrill), southern Missouri (Prior), southern 
Indiana (Butler), northern Virginia (Grinnan) and central Maryland 
(Miller). The summer range extends north to southern Maine 
(Norton), southern Ontario (Renfrew; Clarke), and southern Michi- 
gan (Wood). Then it bends far to the northward through central 
Y/isconsin (Kumlien and Hollister) to central Keewatin (Cape Eskimo ; 
Preble), southern Mackenzie (Fort Smith; Preble), northern Yukon 
(M'Dougall), and to the Kowak River in northwestern Alaska 
(Townsend). Stragglers are not uncommon in the Maritime Prov- 
inces and have occurred in Newfoundland (Reeks) and to Godbout, 
Quebec (Merriam) . The species is not common east of Michigan nor 
west of the Rocky Mountains. 

Winter range. — The principal winter home is in Argentina (Sclater 
and Hudson) and probably no upland plovers occur at this season 
north of the pampas of South America. 

Migration range. — In fall this species passes through the Greater 
and the Lesser Antilles (Feilden), but in the Bahamas (Cory), 
Jamaica (March), and Porto Rico (Gundlach), it is so much rarer than 
farther east as to indicate that some individuals reach the Lesser 
Antilles by direct flight across the ocean. It migrates also through 
the Gulf States and west to Sulphur Spring, Ariz. (Henshaw), west- 
ern Mexico (Durango; Nelson), and locally in Central America and 
the northern parts of South America. 

There seem to be no spring records of migration in the West Indies 
east of Cuba, indicating that the individuals that go south through 
the Lesser Antilles return by way of Central America. Nor in spring 
migration is the species recorded west of central Mexico or west of the 
Rocky Mountains south of Utah. The only record for California is 
the single bird taken by Vernon Bailey of the Biological Survey at 
Tule Lake, August 8, 1896. 

Spring migration. — The upland plover arrives in Louisiana on the 
average earlier than in either Florida or Texas. This would seem 
to prove that it reaches Louisiana by direct flight across the gulf. 
The average date of arrival in southern Louisiana is March 14, 
while the date of arrival at the same latitude in Texas is March 28, 
and in Florida is early April. The earliest dates are: Bonham, Tex., 
March 5, 1887 (Peters); New Orleans, La., March 9, 1895 (Beyer); 
and Tallahassee, Fla., March 25, 1901 (Williams). Other dates of 
arrival on the Atlantic slope are: Raleigh, N. C, average April 7, 
earliest March 28, 1896 (Brimley); Washington, D. C, March 21, 
1896 (Richmond); Holland Patent, N. Y., average April 20, earliest 
52928°— Bull. 35—10 5 


April 14, 1896 (Williams); central Connecticut, average April 29, 
earliest April 16, 1896 (Jennings); southern New Hampshire, average 
April 30, earliest April 22, 1900 (Dearborn); Plymouth, Me., average 
May 3, earliest April 25, 1878 (Thorne); central Vermont, average 
May 5, earliest April 30, 1887 (Goodwin); Godbout, Quebec, May 7, 
1885 (Merriam). 

Migration in the Mississippi Valley begins earlier than on the 
Atlantic coast and is earlier for corresponding latitudes all the way 
north to the Canadian boundary, as shown by the following dates of 
arrival: Odin, 111., average April 4, earliest March 30, 1895 (Vander- 
cock); Tampico, 111., average April 11, earliest April 9, 1890 (Brown); 
Chicago, 111., average April 16, earliest April 10, 1896 (Gault) ; Oberlin, 
Ohio, average April 14, earliest March 22, 1904 (Jones); southern 
Michigan, average April 20, earliest April 8, 1895 (Alexander) ; central 
Iowa, average April 15, earliest April 3, 1893 (Ross); southern Wis- 
consin, average April 18, earliest April 10, 1853 (Stiles); Heron Lake, 
Minnesota, average April 24, earliest April 20, 1890 (Miller); Man- 
hattan, Kans., average April 14, earliest April 4, 1882 (Lantz); 
Onaga, Kans., average April 14, earliest April 7, 1893 (Crevecoeur) ; 
southern Nebraska, average April 17, earliest April 6, 1890 (Wilson); 
northern Nebraska, average April 18, earliest April 7, 1903 (Colt); 
central South Dakota, average April 23, earliest April 19, 1886 
(Cheney) ; Argusville, N. Dak., average May 5, earliest April 26, 1894 
(Edwards) ; Larimore, N. Dak., average May 5, earliest April 26, 1888 
(Eastgate) ; Aweme, Manitoba, average May 3, earliest April 26, 1899 
(Criddle) ; Lake Como, Wyoming, May 5, 1879 (Williston) ; Rathdrum, 
Idaho, average May 12, earliest April 27, 1901 (Danby); Columbia 
Falls, Mont., average May 12, earliest April 27, 1894 (Williams); 
Edmonton, Alberta, May 12, 1903 (Preble); Red Deer, Alberta, May 
13, 1892, May 11, 1893 (Farley); 150-mile House, British Columbia, 
May 16, 1901 (Brooks). 

In the winter home in Argentina the northern movement begins in 
February, and most birds are gone by the end of March; a few strag- 
glers remain to April (Sclater and Hudson). The species passes 
through Peru in March and April (Sclater and Salvin) ; the last was 
seen at Piedra Blanca, Bolivia, April 23 (Allen) ; at Tonantins, Brazil, 
May 7, 1884 (Berlepsch); Cabanas, Cuba, May 22, 1900 (Palmer and 
Riley) ; Teopisca, Chiapas, May 7, 1904 (Goldman) ; and New Orleans, 
La., May 19, 1894 (Allison). 

Eggs have been secured at Lawrenceville, N. J., May 18, 1889 
(Phillips); Holland Patent, N. Y., May 21, 1886 (Williams); Marthas 
Vineyard, Mass., May 25, 1900 (Durfee); Cornwall, Vt., May 26, 1889 
(Parkhill); Philo, 111., May 4, 1900 (Hess); Winnebago, 111., May 10, 
1864 (Tolman); near Dubuque, Iowa, May 14, 1865 (Blackburn); 
Beatrice, Nebr., May 16, 1895 (Pearse); near Bryant, S. Dak., May 
26, 1895 (Lee); Lewistown, Mont., May 25, 1904 (Silloway); Car- 


berry, Manitoba, May 30, 1886 (Seton); southwestern Saskatchewan, 
May 29, 1905 (Bent). 

Fall migration. — Birds were observed at Lipscomb, Tex., July 10, 
1903 (Howell), and as they do not breed in that locality, these were 
southbound migrants. Observers easily detect the call notes of the 
upland plover as it passes overhead in the darkness, and these 
calls are usually the first signs of the fall migration. The earliest 
notes in 1895 at Baltimore, Md., were heard July 3, 1895 (Kirkwood); 
at Washington, D. C, the first calls have been heard usually between 
July 10 and July 16, while in 1896 the birds were seen July 7 (Rich- 
mond). The average date of arrival in southern Louisiana is July 23, 
earliest July 9, 1895 (Blakemore); Gainesville, Tex., July 13, 1885 
(Ragsdale); Fort Lyon, Colo., July 12, 1886 (Thorne) ; Sulphur 
Springs, Ariz., August 18, 1874 (Henshaw) ; Chapala, Jalisco, August 
27 (Richardson); San Jose, Costa Rica, September 5, 1890 (Cherrie) ; 
Barbados, West Indies, August 12, 1886 (Manning); Cienega, Colom- 
bia, September 15, 1898 (Allen). In September they first appear on 
their passage through Peru (Sclater and Salvin) , and are noted as arriv- 
ing at their winter home in Argentina (Sclater and Hudson). The 
last one was seen September 6, 1903, at Big Sandy, Mont. (Coubeaux) ; 
at Fort Lyon, Colo., September 2, 1886 (Thorne) ; near Cape Eskimo, 
Keewatin, August 13, 1900 (Preble); Aweme, Manitoba, average 
September 6, latest September 28, 1897 (Criddle) ; Onaga, Kans., aver- 
age September 14, latest October 15, 1896 (Crevecoeur) ; southern Iowa, 
average September 20, latest September 30, 1896 (Savage); Livonia, 
Mich., September 18, 1891 (Alexander); Detroit, Mich., October 20, 

1902 (Swales); Chicago, 111., average September 6, latest September 
22, 1906 (Armstrong and Lawson); Lexington, Ky., October 11, 

1903 (Dean); New Orleans, La., October 7, 1896 (Kopman); North 
River, Prince Edward Island, August 25, 1887 (Bain) ; Pittsfield, Me., 
September 22, 1895 (Morrell) ; Taunton, Mass., September 19, 1889 
(Scudder); Germantown, Pa., October 2, 1887 (Stone); Key West, 
Fla., October 3, 1888 (Scott); near Atlanta, Ga., November 27, 1903 
(Smith); Escondido, Nicaragua, November 26, 1892 (Richmond); 
San Jose, Costa Rica, November 15, 1889 (Cherrie); Davila, Panama, 
November 30, 1900 (Bangs). 

Buff-breasted Sandpiper. Tryngites subruficollis ( Vieill.). 
Summer range. — The buff-breasted sandpiper is known to breed 
from Point Barrow, Alaska (Murdoch), to near Franklin Bay, Mac- 
kenzie (MacFarlane) . It was taken in June at Repulse Bay (Rae), 
and undoubtedly breeds along the whole Arctic coast east to Hudson 
Bay. Not quite so certain is the breeding of the bird on the coast 
of northeastern Siberia. It was found to be quite common there 
near Koliuchin Bay, August 1, 1881 (Nelson), and had probably bred 
there, but no nests or young were found, and the individuals seen 
mav have been early fall wanderers from Alaskan breeding grounds. 


Winter range. — It winters in Argentina and Uruguay, south at 
least to Buenos Aires (Durnford) and Montevideo (Gould). 

Migration range. — Many thousand miles separate the summer and 
winter homes of the species, and the migration route between these 
widely separated regions seems to be somewhat different from that 
of any other species. The main body of migrants follows the Barren 
Grounds to the shores of Hudson Bay, thence almost due south across 
the Mississippi Valley to the coast of Texas and through Central 
America to northwestern South America and diagonally across the 
interior of South America to Argentina. 

The buff-breasted sandpiper is a rare fall migrant on the Atlantic 
coast: Henley Harbor, Labrador, August 20, 1860 (Coues); Port 
Burwell, Ungava, September 28, 1884 (Bell); Quebec, three records, 
August 28 (Merriam) to September (Trowbridge); Cape Elizabeth, 
Me., September 13, 1887 (Knight); Scarboro, Me., September 5, 1907 
(Norton) ; several records on the coast of New England and on Long 
Island, the latest of which is September 11, 1904, on Long Island 
(Braislin). South of Long Island there are no recent records, and 
most. of the older ones are open to suspicion. The species was seen 
once in April in Cuba (Gundlach), twice in the fall on Barbados 
(Feilden), and a record for the island of Trinidad (Leotaud) is some- 
what doubtful. It is practically unknown in spring on the Atlantic 
coast of the United States. It is not known in the Rocky Mountain 
region, but on the Pacific coast it has been taken at Cape Flattery; 
Wash. (Newberry); in southern British Columbia (Brooks); Sitka 
(Bischoff), St. Michael (Nelson), and Nulato (Dall and Bannister), 

Spring migration. — Migrants appear in the interior of Brazil 
(Pelzeln) and in Peru (Sclater and Salvin) during March, but there 
are no spring migration data for the whole distance between Peru 
and Texas. In the State of Texas the species was noted April 22, 
1887, in Refugio County (Sennett), and April 23, 1877, at Gainesville 
(Ragsdale). The first were seen at Fort Chipewyan, May 24, 1901 
(Preble); Fort Simpson, May 29, 1860 (Ross); Yukon delta, May 30, 
1879 (Nelson); St. Michael, May 31, 1880 (Nelson); Point Barrow, 
June 8, 1882 (Murdoch), and June 6, 1883 (Murdoch). 

Eggs were taken on the Barren Grounds near Franklin Bay, June 
26, 1864, and June 28, 1865 (MacFarlane) ; and at Point Barrow, 
June 18, 1883 (Murdoch). 

Fall migration. — The fall migration of this species and of most 
other waders begins in July, and so rapidly do the birds move south 
that they have been noted the last of this month in Nebraska (Bruner, 
Wolcott, and Swenk); Gainesville, Tex., August 4, 1883 (Ragsdale); 
San Jose, Costa Rica, September 7, 1890 (Cherrie); and Cienega, 
Colombia, September 12, 1898 (Allen). The southern part of the 

Bui. 35, Biological Survey, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture. 

Plate III. 


winter range in Argentina is reached early in October (Sclater and 
Hudson). A very early migrant was taken August 3, at Pebas, 
Peru (Sharpe). Usually the species is rare east of the Mississippi 
River, but several flocks were seen August 16-18, 1874, at May wood, 
111., near Chicago (Fisher). 

Spotted Sandpiper. Actitis macularia (Linn.). 

Breeding range. — Few shorebirds have so extended a breeding 
range as the spotted sandpiper. It nests north to Newfoundland 
(Reeks), the northernmost part of Ungava (Turner), northern 
Mackenzie (Fort Anderson; MacFarlane), northern Alaska at Fort 
Yukon (Lockhart), and to the Kowak VahVy in northwestern Alaska 
(Townsend). It breeds south to northern South Carolina (Chester 
County; Loomis), central Alabama (Greensboro; Avery), southern 
Louisiana (New Orleans; Beyer), central Texas (Lacey), southern 
New Mexico (Carlisle; Barrell), central Arizona (San Francisco 
Mountains; Mearns), and the southern Sierra of California (Walker 
Pass; Kaeding), and probably on the Colorado River near Needles 

Winter range. — The spotted sandpiper ranges south in winter to 
central Peru (La Merced; Berlepsch and Stolzmann), central Bolivia 
(San Francisco; Salvadori), and to southern Brazil (Sao Paulo; 
Ihering). It is not rare in northern South America, and is tolerably 
common in Central America and Mexico; a few winter in the West 
Indies, and a small number in the eastern United States to the coast 
of Georgia (Helme) and to Port Royal, S. C. (Eaton), and in the 
western United States to southern Arizona (Dwight) and southern 
California (Grinnell). 

Spring migration. — The spotted sandpiper passes north about the 
middle of the migration season, as shown by the following dates of 
arrival: Northern Florida, average March 19 (Pleas); Raleigh, N. C, 
average April 10, earliest April 3, 1893 (Brimley) ; near Asheville, 
N. C, average April 13, earliest April 10, 1891 (Cairns); Washington, 
D. C, average April 22, earliest April 2, 1905 (McAtee) ; near Waynes- 
burg, Pa., average April 13, earliest April 6, 1893 (Jacobs) ; Beaver, 
Pa., average April 20, earliest April 2, 1888 (Todd); Renovo, Pa., 
average April 18, earliest April 9, 1904 (Pierce) ; Erie, Pa., earliest 
April 18, 1900 (Todd) ; near New York City, average April 26, earliest 
April 15, 1891 (Burhaus); central Connecticut, average April 25, 
earliest April 20, 1901 (Case) ; near Providence, R. L, average May 2, 
earliest April 21, 1905 (Mason); eastern Massachusetts, average 
April 28, earliest April 15, 1893 (Metcalf); Randolph, Vt., average 
May 5, earliest April 28, 1891 (Paine); southern New Hampshire, 
average May 4, earliest April 28, 1905 (Perkins) ; southwestern Maine, 
average May 1, earliest April 14, 1904 (Norton); Montreal, Canada, 
average May 13, earliest April 26, 1890 (Wintle); central New Bruns- 
wick, average May 11, earliest May 5, 1906 (Mcintosh); Pictou, 


Nova Scotia, average May 7, earliest May 3, 1895 (Hickman); North 
River, Prince Edward Island, average May 14, earliest May 11, 
1890 (Bain). The earliest date of arrival at New Orleans, La., is 
March 19, 1904 (Kopman) ; Athens, Tenn., average April 14, earliest 
April 10, 1906 (Gettys); Russellville, Ky., April 9, 1906 (Embody); 
Brookville, Ind., average April 20, earliest April 14, 1883 (Butler); 
Waterloo, Ind., average April 27, earliest April 5, 1895 (Hine) ; 
Chicago, 111., average April 30, earliest April 19, 1896 (Gault); Ober- 
lin, Ohio, average April 16, earliest April 9, 1904 (Jones) ; Petersburg, 
Mich., average April 22, earliest April 15, 1887 (Trombly) ; southern 
Ontario, average April 23, earliest April 13, 1896 (Taverner) ; Ottawa, 
Ontario, average April 30, earliest April 24, 1897 (White) ; southern 
Wisconsin, average April 27, earliest April 23, 1897 (Russell); Lanes- 
boro, Minn., average April 28, earliest April 18, 1886 (Hvoslef); 
Onaga, Kans., average May 5, earliest April 26, 1896 (Crevecoeur) ; 
Aweme, Manitoba, average May 8, earliest May 2, 1905 (Criddle); 
Columbia Falls, Mont., average May 7, earliest May 4, 1896 
(Williams); Chilliwack, British Columbia, May 9, 1889 (Brooks); 
Athabaska Landing, Alberta, May 6, 1901 (Preble) ; Fort Chipewyan, 
Alberta, May 23, 1893 (Russell) ; near Fort Providence, Mackenzie, 
May 17, 1904 (Mills); Fort Simpson, Mackenzie, May 19, 1904 
(Preble) ; Dawson, Yukon, May 24, 1899 (Cantwell) ; Kowak Valley, 
Alaska, May 22, 1899 (Grinnell). The species has been seen south 
of its breeding grounds as late as May in Brazil (Pelzeln) , and to the 
latter part of June on the northern coast of Venezuela (Robinson). 
The species regularly remains in Cuba (Gundlach) and the Bahamas 
to early May (Bonhote) and in Mexico to the latter part of the month 
(Sharpe). The average date of the last seen in northern Florida is 
May 12, and the latest May 18, 1904 (Pleas). 

The date of the laying of the eggs varies but little over the whole 
extent of the breeding range, as shown by the following dates when 
the earliest eggs were found: Near Richmond, Va., May 22, 1881 
(Robinson); Erie, Pa., May 24, 1893 (Todd); Lawrenceville, N. J., 
May 27, 1889 (Phillips); Trenton Falls, N. Y., May 19, 1892 (Wil- 
liams); Canaan, Conn., May 16, 1887 (Tobey); Fall River, Mass., 
May 14, 1887 (Durfee) ; Orono, Me., May 24, 1894 (Knight) ; Montreal, 
Canada, June 8, 1890 (Wintle) ; Dunnville, Ontario, May 17, 1884 
(McCallum) ; Big Charity Island, Michigan, May 20, 1903 (Arnold) ; 
Cheyenne, Wyo., May 30, 1889 (Bond); Fort Lapwai, Idaho, May 
29, 1871 (Bendire); Fort Resolution, Mackenzie, May 23, 1860 
(Kennicott); Fort Anderson, Mackenzie, June 9, 1862 (MacFarlane) ; 
Fort Yukon, Alaska, June 15, 1862. 

Fall migration. — The individual taken on Barbados, West Indies, 
July 4, 1888 (Feilden), may have been a nonbreeding summer resi- 
dent, or an early fall migrant, but by the end of July migrants have 


appeared in the Lesser Antilles, on the coast of Venezuela (Hartert), 
and in Mexico (Brown); indeed, in 1892 a specimen was taken in 
northern Lower California the first day of July (Mearns) . 

The last seen at Chilliwack, British Columbia, was October 9, 
1888 (Brooks) ; average of the last seen at Columbia Falls, Mont., 
September 19, latest September 22, 1895 (Williams); Aweme, Mani- 
toba, average September 5, latest September 11, 1903 (Criddle) ; 
Lincoln, Nebr., September 29, 1900 (Wolcott); Lawrence, Kans., 
October 14, 1905 (Wetmore) ; Lanesboro, Minn., November 2, 1886 
(Hvoslef) ; Ottawa, Ontario, average September 18, latest October 28, 
1902 (White) ; southern Ontario, average September 30, latest October 
25, 1902 (Saunders); Oberlin, Ohio, average September 20, latest 
October 30, 1905 (Jones) ; Scotch Lake, New Brunswick, October 5, 
1901 (Moore) ; southwestern Maine, average October 1, latest October 
6, 1900 (Johnson); eastern Massachusetts, average October 7, latest 
October 14, 1895 (Farmer); Hartford, Conn., average October 8, 
latest October 12, 1902 (Case); Ossining, N. Y., October 23 (Fisher); 
Washington, D. C, October 28, 1906 (Fisher); near New Orleans, 
La., latest November 5, 1902, November 10, 1903 (Allison). 
Long-billed Curlew. Numenius americanus Bechstein. 

Breeding range. — The principal summer home of the long-billed 
curlew is in the interior of the United States on the northern half of 
the plains. Southward it has been known to breed to Oklahoma 
(Camp Supply; Wilcox), northwestern Texas (McCauley), central 
New Mexico (Los Pinos; Woodhouse), southern Arizona (Sulphur 
Spring; Henshaw), and northwestern California in the Pit River 
region (Grinnell). To the northward it breeds to central British 
Columbia (150-mile House; Brooks), southern Alberta (Bow River; 
Macoun), southern Saskatchewan (Medicine Hat; Macoun), and 
southern Manitoba (Seton). The long-billed curlew was formerly 
common in the eastern part of the Mississippi Valley and abundant 
on the Atlantic coast, but of late years the numbers have been so 
reduced that now it is merely casual or accidental east of the Missis- 
sippi. There are records of the former breeding of the species in 
northern Iowa (Preston), Wisconsin (Hoy), southern Michigan 
(Jackson; Davis), and northern Illinois (Ridgway). The species 
was an abundant migrant on the southern Atlantic coast and less 
common north to Newfoundland (Reeks), and there are various sur- 
mises that it bred at various places, such as the west coast of Florida 
(Scott), coast of New Jersey (Wilson), and Prince Edward Island 
(Boardman), but most if not all of these breeding records were based 
on the presence of the birds in July, and there seems to be no authentic 
record of eggs anywhere east of Michigan. 

Winter range. — The species winters on the Atlantic coast from 
South Carolina (Nuttall) to Florida (Allen) ; on the coast of Louisiana 
(Beyer) and Texas (Merrill) ; in southern Arizona (specimen in United 


States National Museum); and in California north to Owen Lake 
(Fisher) and San Francisco (Newberry). It also ranges south through 
Mexico to the Pacific coast of Guatemala at Chiapam (Salvin). It 
is a casual wanderer in the West Indies; Cuba, June, July, October 
(Gundlach); Jamaica, July, 1863 (March); St. Vincent, once in the 
fall (Lawrence). 

Spring migration. — When the long-billed curlew was common on 
the Atlantic coast, it was seldom seen in spring north of the Carolinas; 
the few individuals that passed up the New England coast usually 
appeared in May: Hail Point, Maryland, May 23, 1893 (Kirkwood); 
Scarboro, Me., May 2, 1866 (Knight). Migration in the Mississippi 
Valley begins in March: Eagle Pass, March 5, 1885 (Negley); Pecos 
City, March 9, 1906 (Ligon); Gainesville, March 4, 1876 (Ragsdale)— 
all in Texas; Warrensburg, Mo., April 1, 1874 (Scott) ; Apple ton City, 
Mo., April 3, 1906 (Prier); central Illinois, average April 9; Jasper, 
Ind., April 2, 1896 (Butler); central Iowa, average April 11, earliest 
April 3, 1883 (Lindley); northern Nebraska, average April 3, earliest 
March 28, 1889 (Bates) ; Vermilion, S. Dak., April 5 ,1884 (Agersborg) ; 
central North Dakota, average April 15, earliest April 8, 1886 (Ed- 
wards); Aweme, Manitoba, average April 22, earliest April 9, 1902 
(Criddle); Apache, N. Mex., March 25, 1886 (Anthony); Utah Lake, 
Utah, March 30, 1899 (Johnson) ; northern Colorado, average April 14, 
earliest April 10, 1889 (Smith); Cheyenne, Wyo., average April 18, 
earliest April 15, 1889 (Bond); Terry, Mont., average April 16, earliest 
April 7, 1906 (Cameron); Big Sandy, Mont., average April 19, earliest 
April 13, 1903 (Coubeaux); Fort Klamath, Oreg., March 28, 1887 
(Merrill) ; Chelan, Wash., April 6, 1896 (Dawson) ; Okanagan Landing, 
British Columbia, April 12, 1906 (Brooks). 

Eggs have been taken at Camp Harney, Oregon, April 30, 1876 
(Bendire); Fort Klamath, Oreg., May 7, 1878 (Mearns); Lewistown, 
Mont., May 13, 1902 (Silloway); Fort Lapwai, Idaho, May 21, 1871 
(Bendire); Cody, Nebr., young just hatched June 23, 1895 (Trostler); 
southern Saskatchewan, downy young June 1, 1905 (Bent); June 11 
and 18, 1906 (Bent). 

Fall migration. — Flocks of fall migrants used to appear on the 
Atlantic coast about the middle of July (Mearns) and reach .South 
Carolina by early August (Hoxie). They returned to Monterey Bay, 
California, July 17, 1894 (Loomis), and arrived at Cape St. Lucas, 
Lower California, September 15, 1859 (Xantus). The last one seen 
at Montreal in 1893 was observed September 21 (Wintle), and on the 
coast of Massachusetts the species has been noted to October 18 
(Howe and Allen) . 

Hudsonian Curlew. Numenius hudsonicus Lath. 

Breeding range. — The Hudsonian curlew, or jack curlew as it is 
called by sportsmen, is known to breed on the barren grounds of 
northern Mackenzie (MacFarlane) and on the western coast of 


Alaska from the mouth of the Yukon (Nelson) north to Kotzebue 
Sound (Grinnell). 

Winter range. — The principal winter home is on the Pacific coast, 
where the species ranges from Ecuador (Salvadori and Festa) to 
southern Chile (Chiloe Island; Pelzeln), and is especially abundant 
toward the southern limit of the range. At this season it occurs also 
on the coasts of Honduras (Taylor) and Guatemala (Salvin) and 
north to the southern portion of Lower California (Belding). On 
the Atlantic coast it occurs during the winter from British Guiana 
(Quelch) to the mouth of the Amazon (Sharpe). 

Migration range. — The species probably does not breed in Green- 
land, but it has been taken several times on the western coast as far 
north as Jacobshaven, latitude 69° N. (Winge). It migrates east to 
Ungava (Turner) and Newfoundland (Reeks), and passes down the 
Atlantic coast and through the Lesser Antilles to its winter home; 
but it is almost unknown in the Greater Antilles and in Central 
America and northwestern South America from Nicaragua to Vene- 
zuela. It is a common migrant and a probable breeder along the 
western shore of Hudson Bay (Preble), but since it is unknown in 
Saskatchewan and Manitoba it is evident that these Hudson Bay 
birds turn southeastward and probably reach the New England 
coast; for the bird is more common on the Massachusetts coast than 
would be expected from the few individuals that occur in Labrador. 
The species is scarcely recorded in the whole Rocky Mountain district 
between central Nebraska and eastern California, and it is a rare 
migrant in the Mississippi Valley, though a few use this route in both 
migrations. The main migration route is along the Pacific coast, 
and it occurs here west to St. Paul Island, Alaska (Palmer). 

Spring migration. — Records of arrival in the eastern United States 
are: Sarasota Bay, Florida, March 22, 1872 (Moore); Port Royal, 
S. C, April 14 (Mackay); Cobbs Island, Virginia, May 19, 1891 (Kirk- 
wood); Cape May, N. J., April 12, 1907, "ten days ahead of the usual 
time" (Hand); Shelter Island, N. Y., May 9, 1887 (Worthington) ; 
Nantucket, Mass., April 10, 1891 (Mackay); but usually not in 
Massachusetts before the middle of May. By what route these birds 
reach the eastern United States coast is as yet unknown, for there 
are no corresponding records in either the Lesser or the Greater 

The main migratory flocks reach the coast of southern California 
the middle of March (Grinnell) and proceeding slowly northward have 
been noted at Fort Kenai, Alaska, May 18, 1869 (Bischoff) ,-Nulato, 
Alaska, May 12, 1866 (Pease); Kowak Valley, Alaska, May 17, 1899 
(Grinnell) ; Fort Anderson, Mackenzie, May 29, 1865 (MacFarlane). 

Eggs were taken on the barren grounds west of the lower Anderson 
River in late June and early July (MacFarlane), and in the Kowak 
Valley June 14-20, 1899 (Grinnell). 


Fall migration. — On the western shore of Hudson Bay near York 
Factory in 1900 the species was seen July 19, and was tolerably 
common in that region nearly to the first of September (Preble) ; the 
earliest date at Toronto, Ontario, is July 4, 1904 (Fleming). The 
average date of arrival at Nantucket, Mass., is July 20, earliest July 
13 (Mackay); earliest at Long Beach, N. J., July 9, 1879 (Stone); 
Pea and Bodie Island, North Carolina, July 22, 1904 (Bishop); 
Bermudas, August 14 (Reid); Barbuda, West Indies, August 12, 1877 
(Ober). Two specimens were taken July 3, 1907, at Coronado de 
Terraba, Costa Rica (Carriker), but these may have been nonbreeders 
that had not made a northern journey. 

The individuals breeding in Alaska pass south along the Pacific 
coast, and have been noted at the Farallons, California, July 16, 1896 
(Loomis); Los Coronados Islands, Lower California, August 7, 1902 
(Grinnell and Daggett); Chimbote, Peru, August 2-5, 1883 (MacFar- 
lane); and by August 18, at Arauca, Chile (Sharpe). 

The Hudsonian curlew has been noted at St. Michael, Alaska, as 
late as September 2, 1899 (Bishop) ; Morro Bay, California, November, 
1891 (Nelson) ; Great Bear Lake, August 30, 1903 (Preble) ; near Cape 
Churchill, Hudson Bay, August 24, 1900 (Preble); Henley Harbor, 
Ungava, August 27, 1860 (Coues). Near Newport, R. I., a gunner 
secured 30 birds in eight years on dates ranging from August 26, 1867, 
to October 2, 1874 (Sturtevant) . Barbuda, West Indies, November 
12, 1903 (specimen in United States National Museum). 

Eskimo Curlew. Numenius borealis (Forst.). 
Breeding range. — The principal summer home of the Eskimo curlew 
was on the barren grounds of Mackenzie, from near the Arctic coast 
(MacFarlane) south to Point Lake (Richardson). Thence a few 
ranged west as far as Point Barrow (Murdoch), but no nests seem to 
have been found west of Mackenzie. 

Winter range. — Most of the species wintered in the campos region 
of Argentina (Sclater and Hudson) and Patagonia, south at least to 
the Chubut Valley (Durnford). It has been taken once on the Falk- 
land Islands (Abbott). It was rare in Chile, south to Chiloe (Philippi). 
At present there are no data to determine the northern limit in winter, 
but probably few if any wintered much north of Buenos Aires. 

Migration route. — The curlew left the Barren Grounds in the fall 
and went southeast to Labrador (Coues), where they gorged them- 
selves for several weeks and became extremely fat. Then they 
passed across the Gulf of St. Lawrence and struck out to sea heading 
for the Lesser Antilles, nearly 2,000 miles distant. Some flocks 
stopped for a few days at the Bermudas (Jardine), but if the weather 
was fair the larger number passed on, flying both day and night, and 
did not land during the whole trip. When storms interfered, the 
birds were sometimes driven out of their course and appeared in 


considerable numbers on the coast of Massachusetts (Mackay) and 
less often on Long Island (Giraud) and the New Jersey coast (Turn- 
bull). The Eskimo curlew was absent, except as a straggler, from 
the whole coast of the United States south of New Jersey, from the 
Bahamas and from the Greater Antilles. In its southward flight it 
passed through the Lesser Antilles (Feilden) and along the eastern 
portion of Brazil (Pelzeln) to its winter home. Throughout the 
whole line of its fall migration it was unknown in spring, at which 
season it was traveling northward some thousands of miles farther 
west over the prairies of the Mississippi Valley. The exact route 
between its winter home and the United States is unknown, for 
along the whole 4,000 miles from Argentina to northern Mexico 
and southern Texas the species has been recorded only twice — once 
in Costa Rica (Zeledon) and once in Guatemala (Salvin). Its prin- 
cipal migration route in spring was a comparatively narrow belt 
crossing the prairies on both sides of the meridian of 97°. The course 
is well known from southern Texas (Merrill) to southern South 
Dakota (Agersborg) and thence data are wanting. There seem to be 
no records of the species from about latitude 44° in the Mississippi 
Valley until Great Slave Lake is reached, a thousand miles to the 

This curlew is unknown in' the Rocky Mountain States or any- 
where on the Pacific slope or coast south of Alaska, and the specimen 
taken April 8, 1892, at Lake Palomas, Chihuahua (specimen in 
United States National Museum), was far out of the usual course of 
the species. The species has been taken a few times in western 
Alaska, south to St. Michael (Nelson) and west to the Pribilof Islands 
(Palmer) and Bering Sea (specimen in United States National 
Museum). It has occurred accidentally several times in Europe and 
on the western coast of Greenland, north to Disco Bay (Winge). 

Spring migration. — The Eskimo curlew arrived in Texas in March — 
Boerne, March 9, 1880 (Brown); Gainesville, average March 17, 
earliest March 7, 1884 (Ragsdale); and reached central Kansas about 
the middle of April— April 14, 1884 (Kellogg); April 13, 1885 (Kel- 
logg). Most of the records in the central Mississippi Valley are in 
April. One of the latest and most northern is that of Coues, 
who says that he saw them in large flocks the second week in May, 
1873, between Fort Randall and Yankton, S. Dak. Then there is no 
further news of them until they arrived at Fort Resolution, Mac- 
kenzie, May 27, 1860 (Kennicott); Fort Anderson, May 27, 1865 
(MacFarlane) ; Point Barrow, May 20, 1882 (Murdoch). 

Eggs were taken at Point Lake, Mackenzie, June 13, 1822 (Richard- 
son), and on the Barren Grounds near Fort Anderson, June 13, 1863, 
June 16, 1864, and June 16, 1865 (MacFarlane). 

Fall migration. — The Eskimo curlew started so early in August 
that by the middle of the month the old birds reached the eastern 


shores of Labrador (Coues). During the following two weeks they 
crossed the Gulf of St. Lawrence and made their long ocean flight 
and by the end of another fortnight they were at the winter home in 
Argentina (Sclater and Hudson). Dates of arrival along this course 
are: Indian Tickle Harbor, Labrador, August 16, 1860 (Coues); 
Houlton Harbor, Labrador, August 20, 1891 (Norton); Nantucket, 
Mass., average August 29, earliest August 18, 1898 (Mackay); Bar- 
bados, West Indies, August 27, 1886 (Manning); Amazon River, Sep- 
tember 4, 1830 (Pelzeln); Concepcion, Argentina, September 9, 1880 
(Barrows). Some dates of the last seen are: Fort Churchill, Kee- 
watin, September 1, 1884 (Bell); Newfoundland, to end of Septem- 
ber (Reeks); Saybrook, Conn., October 13, 1874 (Merriam); Barba- 
dos, West Indies, November 4, 1886 (Manning). Many curlews 
migrated south along the west coast of Hudson Bay, before they 
turned east to the Atlantic and some of these seem to have wandered 
occasionally southward and given rise to such records as Kingston, 
Ontario, October 10, 1873 (Fleming); Erie, Pa., September 17, 1889 
(Sennett) ; and a few fall records around Lake Michigan. 

The Eskimo curlew is rapidly approaching extinction, if indeed 
any still exist. In the early sixties MacFarlane found them breeding 
abundantly on the Barren Grounds near Fort Anderson, while Coues 
reports thousands passing south along the Labrador coast in the fall; 
in the early seventies Coues found them equally abundant passing 
north through South Dakota in the spring. Ten years later they 
were still common in their winter home in Argentina, and natural- 
ists who visited the Labrador coast at this time record them as 
present in flocks but not in numbers as seen by Coues. By 1889 
only a few flocks were seen, and within the next half dozen years the 
flights ceased. During the last fifteen years the species has been 
recorded only a few times and apparently only three times in the 
ten years previous to 1909: Tuckernuck Island, Massachusetts, eight 
birds August 24, 1897 (Mackay) ; Nantucket, Mass., two, August 18, 
1898 (Mackay); northeastern coast of Labrador, about a dozen the 
fall of 1900 (Bigelow). The latest records are those of two birds 
shot August 27, 1908, at Newburyport, Mass. (Thayer), and one 
September 2, 1909, at Hog Island, Maine (Knight). The disappear- 
ance of the Eskimo curlew has given rise to much speculation as to 
the probable cause. A simple explanation is that during recent 
years, especially since 1880, its former winter home in Argentina has 
been settled and cultivated, while its spring feeding grounds in 
Nebraska and South Dakota have been converted into farm land. 

[European Curlew. Numenius arquatus (Linn.). 

This Eastern Hemisphere species breeds from Great Britain to southern Russia, 
the White Sea, and the Ural Mountains. It winters in Great Britain and occurs at 
this season from the Mediterranean to the south end of Africa. 

It is probable that one specimen of this curlew was collected on Long Island in 
1853 — its only North American record.] 


Whimbrel. Numenius phdeopus (Linn.)- 

Though an Old World species, the whimbrel is a common visitor 
in Greenland (Schalow) and possibly breeds there. It breeds in 
Iceland, Scandinavia, and Russia, east to the Ural Mountains and 
north to the Arctic Circle. It winters on the coast and islands of 
tropical and southern Africa, and ranges at this season east to India 
and the Malay Peninsula. One was taken May 23, 1906, about 
latitude 43° N. and longitude 60° W., south of Sable Island, Nova 
Scotia (Brewster). 

Bristle-thighed Curlew. Numenius tahitiensis (Gmel.). 

The breeding range of this species has not yet been ascertained, 
but in Alaska it has been taken May 18, 1869, on the Kenai Penin- 
sula (Bischoff) ; May 24, 1880, at St. Michael (Nelson) ; August 26, 
1885, on the Kowak River (Townsend) ; and May 23, 1905, at the head 
of Nome River (Anthony). These dates would seem to indicate 
that the species nests in the northern part of its range. 

The species is common on the Hawaiian Islands and occurs through- 
out the islands of the Pacific south to New Caledonia and from the 
Ladrones to the Marquesas and Paumota islands. The Pacific 
islands seem to be the winter home of the species, and on some of 
them it is quite common. It has been taken in the Phoenix group 
near the equator in June and July, and a few are known to remain 
all summer in Hawaii (Henshaw), but these apparently are non- 
breeding birds. 

Lapwing. Vanellus vanellus (Linn.)- 

Though an Old World species, the lapwing has been noted several 
times in Greenland on the west coast from Julianehaab to Godthaab, 
at various times from early December to the first of April (Schalow) . 
It has been taken as a straggler at White Hills, Newfoundland, No- 
vember 23, 1905 (Brewster); Halifax, Nova Scotia, March 17, 1897 
(Piers) ; Merrick, Long Island, about December 26, 1883 (Dutcher) ; 
Meccox Bay, Long Island, fall of 1905 (Beebe) ; Hog Island, Bahamas, 
November, 1900 (Fleming); Barbados, 1886 (Cory). 

The breeding range extends from Great Britain to Japan, from 
central Europe to the Arctic Circle, and from northern China to about 
latitude 55° in Siberia. The species winters from about the southern 
limit of the breeding range to northern Africa and southern China. 
Dotterel. Eudromias morinellus (Linn.). 

This is an accidental visitor to North America, the only record being 
that of one taken July 23, 1897, on King Island, Alaska (Stone). It 
breeds from Great Britain, southern Russia, and eastern Siberia north 
to the islands of the Arctic coast. It winters from southern Europe 
to equatorial Africa. 


Black-bellied Plover. Squatarola squatarola (Linn.). 

Breeding range. — This is a circumpolar species, but the places where 
it is known to breed are comparatively few. In North America it 
has been found breeding on the Melville Peninsula (Richardson), 
Boothia Felix (Ross), Franklin Bay (MacFarlane), and Point Barrow 
(Murdoch). In the Eastern Hemisphere it breeds on the Kolgnjef 
and Dolgoi islands of Russia and near the Taimyr Peninsula, Siberia, 
and probably breeds on the Liakoff Islands, Siberia, and near the 
south end of Nova Zembla Island. 

Winter range. — The North American breeding birds pass south in 
winter to Chimbote and Tumbez, in northern Peru (Taczanowski), and 
to the Amazon River, Brazil (Pelzeln). The species is also found at 
this season through northern South America, the West Indies, Central 
America, and Mexico to the coast of South Carolina (Coues), occa- 
sionally North Carolina (Bishop), southern Texas (Sennett), and the 
coast of California north to Humboldt County (Townsend) . It prob- 
ably wintered formerly to the mouth of the Columbia (Suckley) . The 
birds of Russia and Siberia winter from the Mediterranean, India, and 
southern China to southern Africa and Australia. The species is 
accidental in Hawaii (Henshaw). 

Migration range. — The black-bellied plover has been taken several 
times on the west coast of Greenland north to Egedesminde, latitude 
69° N. (Winge), but probably does not breed in that country. It is 
known only as a migrant along the east coast of Siberia, as at Plover 
Bay (Nelson) and on the Commander Islands (Stejneger). 

Spring migration. — The species is a late and not common migrant 
on the Atlantic coast in the spring, and appears in New Jersey (Stone) 
and on Long Island in late April and early Ma}^; Montauk, N. Y., 
April 30, 1902 (Scott) ; Cape Cod, Massachusetts, average May 23, 
earliest April 18, 1894 (Mackay); Pictou, Nova Scotia, May 17, 1895 
(Hickman). Nor is it common in the interior, where some dates of 
spring arrivals are: Near New Orleans, La., March 2, 1890 (Beyer); 
Sedalia, Mo., March 21, 1884 (Sampson); southern Ontario, average 
May 27, earliest May 22 (Fleming); Vermilion, S. Dak., May 3, 1884 
(Agersborg) ; northern North Dakota, average May 8, earliest May 5, 
1894 (Bowen); Reaburn, Manitoba, average May 19, earliest May 14, 
1901 (Wemyss); Cheyenne, Wyo., average May 18, earliest May 11, 
1884 (Bond); Indian Head, Saskatchewan, average May 14, earliest 
May 9, 1904 (Lang) ; Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, May 23, 1901 (Preble) ; 
Fort Resolution, Mackenzie, June 2, 1860 (Kennicott); Sitka, Alaska, 
May 6, 1869 (Bischoff); mouth of the Yukon, May 12; Dawson, 
Yukon, May 20, 1899 (Bishop); Point Barrow, Alaska, June 21, 1882 
(Murdoch), and June 26, 1898 (Stone). 

Some individuals remain late in the spring on the Atlantic coast and 
possibly some nonbreeders may remain the entire summer. In 
Florida they have been seen June 14, June 29, July 4, July 26, and 


August 3 (Scott and Worthington) . They have been seen in Jamaica 
in June (Field) , and even off the coast of Venezuela they were common 
June 21-27, 1892 (Hartert). The last of the regular migrants do not 
leave the coast of Massachusetts until June — average June 6, latest 
June 15, 1886 (Cahoon); Western Egg Rock, Maine, June 24, 1895 
(Knight); Toronto, Ontario, June 2 (Fleming); Corpus Christi, Tex., 
July 1, 1887 (Sennett). 

Eggs were taken at Franklin Bay, Mackenzie, July 4, 1864, and 
July 8, 1865 (MacFarlane), but in each case the eggs were already 
partly incubated. 

Fall migration. — The southward movement begins early in July, 
bringing a few individuals into the United States the latter part of 
that month — eastern Massachusetts, July 8 (Howe and Allen); 
Toronto, Ontario, July 23, 1890 (Fleming) — but the regular migra- 
tion occurs in August: Cape Cod, Massachusetts, average August 17, 
earliest August 6 (Mackay) ; Long Island, New York, average August 
6, earliest July 1, 1905 (Kobbe) ; Erie, Pa., August 1, 1890 (Todd); 
southern Wisconsin, August 10, 1872 (Kumlien and Hollister); 
southern British Columbia, August 15, 1903 (Brooks). The last were 
seen at Winter Island on the coast of Melville Peninsula August 17, 
1821 (Greely), and the first flocks came along the Labrador coast 
August 15, 1860 (Coues). The species was unusually abundant on 
Prince Edward Island in 1892 from August 22 to September 14 
(Mackay). Some dates of the last seen are: Point Barrow, Alaska, 
August 20, 1897 (Stone); Great Bear Lake, Mackenzie, September 5, 
1903 (Preble); St. Michael, Alaska, September 16, 1899 (Bishop); 
southern British Columbia, October 23, 1888 (Brooks); Fort Collins, 
Colo., October 28, 1893 (Cooke); Lincoln, Nebr., October 21, 1899 
(Wolcott) ; Ottawa, Ontario, average October 24, latest November 8, 
1903 (White); Pictou, Nova Scotia, October 11, 1894 (Hickman); 
Cape Cod, Massachusetts, average October 21, latest November 14, 
1887 (Cahoon) — accidental in December, 1872 (Mackay); Erie, Pa., 
November 10, 1894 (Todd) ; Long Island, New York, average October 
15, latest November 7, 1905 (Latham). 

European Golden Plover. Charadrius apricarius Linn. 

The combined ranges of the three golden plovers complete the cir- 
cumference of the globe in the vicinity of the Arctic Circle. In 
general it may be said that apricarius breeds in northern Europe and 
northwestern Siberia; dominions in North America; and fulvus in 
eastern Siberia. The ranges of apricarius and dominicus meet on the 
west coast of Greenland; dominicus and fulvus join ranges in western 
Alaska; the dividing line in Siberia between fulvus and apricarius 
has not yet been determined. 

The European golden plover breeds from Great Britain to western 
Siberia and south to central Europe. It winters from about the 


southern limit of the breeding range south to Beluchistan and north- 
ern Africa. This plover has been taken as a summer visitor to the 
east coast of Greenland (Helms), and at several places on the west 
coast from the southern £nd to Christianshaab about 69° latitude 
(Winge) . It has not yet been found breeding in Greenland, though 
it has been taken there in midsummer (Helms). 

Golden Plover. Charadrius dominicus Mull. 

Breeding range. — The summer home of the golden plover extends 
from Whale Point at the northwest corner of Hudson Bay (Eifrig), 
west across the barren grounds to the mouth of the Anderson River 
(MacFarlane) , and thence along the barren grounds of the coast of 
Alaska to Kotzebue Sound (Grinnell) . It extends north in Franklin 
to include the islands, at least as far as latitude 77°. The bird is 
known to breed commonly on Banks Island (Armstrong), Prince 
Albert Island (Armstrong), Melville Island (Parry), and the islands 
at the north end of Wellington Channel (Belcher), and east to the 
eastern coast of Melville Peninsula (Parry). It probably does not 
breed in Greenland, though it occurs not uncommonly on the west 
coast to about latitude 73° (Walker). There are somewhat doubtful 
records of the species having been seen August 7, 1881, at Cape Baird, 
Lady Franklin Bay, 81° 30' N. (Greely), and on July 12, 1872, at 
Thank God Harbor, Greenland, 81° 40' (Davis). As the belt of 
tundra along the north coast of Alaska is comparatively narrow, the 
principal breeding grounds of the golden plover are between the 
mouth of the Mackenzie River and the Gulf of Boothia, north of the 
Arctic Circle. 

Winter range. — The species ranges south on the Atlantic coast to 
Bahia Blanca, central Argentina (Barrows), and the center of abun- 
dance during the winter season is. the pampas of Argentina (Sclater 
and Hudson) and Uruguay (Apiin), between the parallels of 34° and 
36° S. Individuals remain during the winter as far north as Rio 
Janeiro, Brazil (Hapgood) , on the coast and to Cuy aba, Matto Grosso 
(Pelzeln), in the interior. There is one record of the occurrence of 
the species (probably casual) in January at Nauta in northeastern 
Peru (Sharpe). The golden plover does not winter in the Lesser 
Antilles nor in that part of northeastern South America where it is 
most abundant in migration. It has been recorded as wintering at 
several places north of South America, but probably such of these 
records as are not errors represent accidental or unusual occurrences. 

Migration range.— From the breeding grounds the golden plover 
go south and southeast to Labrador; then cross the Gulf of St. Law- 
rence and its islands to Nova Scotia, and from the southern coast of 
the latter fly directly across the ocean to the Lesser Antilles and the 
coast of northeastern South America. Sometimes when caught by a 
storm during this flight they seek the nearest land, appearing not 


infrequently at the Bermudas, Cape Cod, and Long Island. After a 
short stop in the Antilles and northern South America, they pass to 
the winter home in Argentina and remain there from September to 

The return northward in spring is by a different route, the details 
of which are not yet determined. What is known is that they disap- 
pear from Argentina and shun the whole Atlantic coast from Brazil 
to Labrador. In March they appear in Guatemala and Texas; April 
finds them on the prairies of the Mississippi Valley; the first of May 
sees them crossing our northern boundary; and by the first week in 
June they reappear on their breeding grounds in the frozen north. 

Various theories have been advanced to account for this strange 
migration course. The simplest explanation seems to be the applica- 
tion of the following, which may be laid down as the fundamental law 
underlying the choice of migration routes. Birds follow that route 
between the winter and summer homes that is the shortest and at the 
same time furnishes an abundant food supply. Applying this rule to 
the case of the golden plover, the following facts are apparent: The 
plover is a bird of treeless regions; it summers on the tundras and 
winters on the pampas; an enormous food supply especially palatable 
tempts it in the fall to Labrador and furnishes power for the long 
flight to South America. To attempt to return in spring by the same 
course would be suicidal, for at that season Labrador would furnish 
scant provender. The plover seeks the shortest treeless route over- 
land, and alighting on the coast of Texas travels leisurely over the 
Mississippi Valley prairies, which are abundantly supplied with food, 
to the plains of the Saskatchewan and thence to the Arctic coast. 

Spring migration.— The principal line of migration from the winter 
home northward through South America is not yet known; the 
species is said to be common in March and April in Peru (Sclater and 
Salvin) east of the mountains, but next to nothing is known regarding 
its appearance in the territory for a thousand miles to the northward. 
The species is practically unrecorded at all seasons of the year from 
Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua, and Honduras, and though 
a few have been noted in Costa Rica (Cherrie), Guatemala (Sclater 
and Salvin), and eastern Mexico (Sclater), in none of these countries 
have the great flocks been seen that are so characteristic of the fail 
flight in the Lesser Antilles and of the spring advance up the Missis- 
sippi Valley. Not until Texas is reached can the movements of the 
golden plover be definitely traced, and at no place between Peru and 
Texas has it ever been recorded as common. In fact, the. records as 
they stand are what they should be if the plover escapes the forested 
regions of northern South America and Central America by a single 
flight of from 2,000 to 2,500 miles from the valleys of eastern Peru to 
the treeless prairies of Texas. The general time of appearance in the 
52928°— Bull. 35—10 6 


United States and of passage to the summer home can be gathered 
from the following dates of arrival: Boerne, Tex., March 9, 1880 
(Brown); Indianola, Tex., March 15, 1856 (Cassin); Gainesville, 
Tex., March 17, 1885 (Ragsdale); Caddo, Okla., March 12, 1884 
(Gooke); near New Orleans, La., March 24, 1894 (Allison), April 2, 
1881 (Langdon); Fayetteville, Ark., abundant March 20-31, 1883 
(Harvey); central Missouri, average April 13, earliest April 11, 1903 
(Bryant); Badger, Nebr., average April 8, earliest April 5, 1903 
(Colt); Lebanon, 111., March 17, 1876 (Jones); Tampico, 111., average 
April 10, earliest March 31, 1885 (Brown); Terre Haute, Ind., March 
23, 1888 (Evermann); Chicago, 111., average April 16, earliest March 
30, 1899 (Gault); central Iowa, average April 19, earliest April 12, 
1883 (Williams); Heron Lake, Minnesota, average May 1 (Miller); 
central South Dakota, average April 30, earliest April 25, 1888 
(Bishop); Larimore, N. Dak., average May 5, earliest May 2, 1895 
(Eastgate) ; Aweme, Manitoba, average May 4, earliest April 23, 1905 
(Criddle) ; Indian Head, Saskatchewan, May 9, 1904 (Lang) ; Fort 
Simpson, Mackenzie, May 26, 1860 (Ross), May 19, 1904 (Preble); 
Fort Reliance, Yukon, May 13 (Nelson); Point Barrow, Alaska, 
latitude 71° N., May 21, 1882 (Murdoch), May 24, 1883 (Murdoch), 
June 1, 1898 (Stone). The dates of arrival in the province of Frank- 
lin are: Igloolik, 69°, June 14, 1823 (Parry); Boothia Felix, 70°, 
June 4, 1830 (Ross), June 22, 1831 (Ross); Prince of Wales Strait, 
73°, June 7, 1851 (Armstrong); Bay of Mercy, 74°, June 3, 1852 
(Armstrong); Winter Harbor, 75°, June 2, 1820 (Parry); near Wel- 
lington Channel, 77°, June 2, 1853 (Belcher). 

The latest dates recorded in the southern part of the winter range 
are March 12 (Aplin) and March 19 (Barrows); in the northern part 
of the winter home the species remains until April (Sclater and 
Salvin) ; at Chicago the average date of the last one seen is April 30, 
and the latest May 9, 1895 (Blackwelder) . Some other late dates 
are: Near New Orleans, La., June 10, 1907 (Kopman); Lebanon, 
Ind., May 10, 1894 (Beasley); Lawrence, Kans., May 8, 1906 (Wet- 
more); White, S. Dak., May 27, 1889 (Partch); Aweme, Manitoba, 
average May 23, latest May 29, 1896 (Criddle); Fort Chipewyan, 
Alberta, June 1, 1893 (Russell). South of the latitude of Chicago 
the bulk of the spring shooting of golden plover is in April; from Iowa 
northward to Canada the spring shooting occurs chiefly during the 
first half of May. 

During the spring migration the golden plover is almost entirely 
absent from the Atlantic coast. There are three spring records for 
Massachusetts (Mackay) and a few for Long Island (Giraud), the last 
of them many years ago. Probably most of the other scattered 
spring records east of the Alleghenies are errors of identification. 
The species is not common at any time of the year west of Texas, 


Nebraska, and Saskatchewan, and apparently is absent in spring 
from the whole region west of the Rocky Mountains. 

Eggs were collected on the lower Anderson River, Mackenzie, 
June 24, 1863, June 22, 1864, and June 16, 1865 (MacFarlane) ; at 
Point Barrow, Alaska, June 22, 1882, and June 23, 1883 (Murdoch). 

Fall migration. — The old birds start south in July, and those that 
are to make the flight from Nova Scotia to the Lesser Antilles occupy 
about a month in the trip from the breeding grounds to the southern 
coast of Nova Scotia. If fair weather prevails, the flocks of golden 
plover pass by the New England coast far out at sea, but severe 
storms are frequent at this season, and the birds are often driven to 
land. The average for twenty-eight years of the date of arrival of 
these storm-driven migrants at Nantucket, Mass., is August 25, 
earliest August 12, 1898 (Mackay); a still earlier date is August 7, 
1852, at Plymouth, Mass, (Browne). Five times in these twenty- 
eight years birds were seen before August 20 (Mackay). The rule 
on Long Island is to expect the plover with the first storm occurring 
after August 28 (Lawrence). The first flocks are noted in the Ber- 
mudas during the last ten days of August (Reid), and about the same 
time the species arrives in the Lesser Antilles (Lawrence) and even on 
the coast of British Guiana (Quelch). A few golden plover reach 
Argentina the last week in August (Sclater and Hudson) and the 
species has been taken in Bolivia in August (Allen), but these early 
couriers are exceptional, and the main flocks arrive in September. 

On the west side of Baffin Bay in 1820 the last was seen September 
3 (Parry) ; in Nova Scotia the species sometimes remains until 
October (McKinlay). The average date of the last one seen at 
Nantucket, Mass., for ten years previous to 1890 is October 2, 
latest October 22, 1878 (Mackay); for the years since 1890 the 
average date of the last seen is September 23 (Mackay). Near New- 
port, R. I., a market hunter shot 386 golden plover during 1867 to 
1874; the dates ranged from August 14, 1868, to October 24, 1874 
(Sturtevant). On Long Island the dates of the earliest and latest 
recorded observations of the species are August 15 and November 10 
(Chapman). In the Bermudas and the Lesser Antilles most of the 
birds leave in October, though some stragglers may be noted in 

In the interior of New England the golden plover is rare in fall, 
though at times it is quite common on Lake Champlain. Throughout 
New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey it is usually very rare, but 
in 1880 and in several other years it has been common in those States. 
It has been seen at Erie, Pa., on dates ranging from August 20, 1896, 
to November 18, 1900 (Todd). South of New Jersey on the Atlantic 
coast, also in the Bahamas, the golden plover is almost unknown, 
and it is not common anywhere in the Greater Antilles west of St. 


While the greater number of golden plover migrate across the 
Atlantic, a few pass south in the fall through the interior of North 
America. The first arrival from the north noted near Fort Churchill, 
Keewatin, in 1900, was on August 4 (Preble). Other dates of fall 
arrival in the interior are: Moose Factory, Ontario, September 8, 1860 
(Drexler); Aweme, Manitoba, average September 9, earliest August 
10, 1904 (Griddle) ; Lincoln, Nebr., September 22, 1900 (Wolcott) ; near 
Toronto, Ontario, August 31, 1891 (Nash), September 1, 1898 (Nash); 
Point Pelee, Ontario, September 15, 1905 (Swales), September 19, 
1906 (Taverner); Chicago, 111., average September 12, earliest Sep- 
tember 10, 1898 (Gault); Bay St. Louis, Miss., September 26, 1899 
(Allison); San Jose, Costa Rica, October 20, 1890 (Cherrie). Prob- 
ably these Mississippi Valley fall birds are the ones that are fairly 
common in Peru from September to November (Sclater and Salvin) 
and that were noted in October at Arica, Chile (MacFarlane). 

The form of the golden plover that breeds -on the northern and 
northwestern coasts of Alaska does not seem to migrate along the 
western coast of Alaska, but passes in general east to Mackenzie. A 
few individuals migrate southeast and occur in the fall as rare strag- 
lers on the Pacific slope: Sitka, Alaska, August 16, 1896 (Grinnell); 
Chilliwack, British Columbia, August 26, 1889 (Brooks); Port 
Townsend, Wash., September 9, 1897 (Fisher); Santa Cruz, Calif., 
October 22, 1888 (McGregor); San Jose del Cabo, Lower California, 
October 18, 1887 (Brewster). 

The golden plover does not remain late in the north. The last 
seen on the breeding grounds at Point Barrow, Alaska, were noted 
August 28, 1882 (Murdoch), and August 20, 1897 (Stone). Some 
other dates of late occurrence are: Great Bear Lake, September 6, 
1903 (Preble) ; Fort Simpson, September 10, 1860 (Ross) ; Edmonton, 
Alberta, September 23, 1894 (Loring); Indian Head, Saskatchewan, 
October 2, 1904 (Lang); Aweme, Manitoba, average October 14, 
latest October 16, 1901 (Criddle) ; near Fort Pierre, S. Dak., October 
21, 1855 (Cassin); Fort Sherman, Idaho, abundant September 
15-20, 1896 (Merrill); Newcastle, Colo., October 5, 1902 (Bishop); 
Lincoln, Nebr., November 14, 1899 (Wolcott); Lanesboro, Minn., 
November 2, 1889 (Hvoslef); southern Iowa, average October 27, 
latest November 9, 1895 (Currier); Chicago, 111., average October 
11, latest October 28, 1895 (Blackwelder) ; English Lake, Ind., 
November 9, 1891, November 15, 1892 (Butler) ; Ottawa, Ontario, 
October 31, 1906 (White); city of Quebec, Canada, November 10, 
1890 (Dionne); San Jose, Costa Rica, December 15, 1890 (Cherrie). 

The golden plover is one of the shorebirds that has diminished 
most markedly during the last twenty years. Formerly it was 
enormously abundant, and many are the accounts of the countless 
flocks that passed in an almost continuous stream across the Gulf of 

BuL 35, Biological Survey, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture. 

Plate IV. 



St. Lawrence and out to sea. On the return up the Mississippi 
Valley also they were abundant. For the ten years 1895-1904 
the numbers reported have been so small that the species seemed in 
imminent danger of extinction. During 1905 and 1906, however, 
the species was reported from quite a number of localities, indicating 
that at present the comparatively small number of individuals left 
are holding their own. The future of the American golden plover is 
in the hands of the sportsmen of the Mississippi Valley. During the 
breeding season the birds are out of reach of danger from mankind; 
through the winter their welfare is out of the control of the people of 
the United States; but in spring during their two thousand mile 
journey up the Mississippi Valley, for from six to eight weeks, great 
numbers are slaughtered, and as a result they have diminished to a 
small fraction of their former numbers. If the species is to hold its 
own spring shooting in the Mississippi Valley must be largely cur- 
tailed or entirely abolished. 

Pacific Golden Plover. Charadrius dominicus fulvus Gmel. 
The principal summer home of the Pacific golden plover is in Asia, 
where it breeds in northern Siberia east of the Yenisei River; it 
breeds also on the western coast of Alaska from near Bering Strait 
south to Bristol Bay. It winters on the Hawaiian Islands and in 
China and India and south to New Zealand and Australia. Early 
dates of arrival in Alaska are at Portage Bay, May 13, 1882 (Hart- 
laub); Kadiak Island, May 13, 1868 (Bischoff); Atka Island, May 
17, 1879 (Turner). The usual time of arrival at the mouth of the 
Yukon is about the first of June, and the latest date in the fall is 
October 12 (Nelson). 

Killdeer. Oxyechus vociferus (Linn.). 
Breeding range. — The killdeer has one of the most extensive 
breeding ranges of the American shorebirds. It ranges north in 
summer to central Quebec (Merriam) , northern Ontario (Todd) , cen- 
tral Keewatin (Preble), southern Mackenzie (Preble), and to about 
latitude 53° in the interior of British Columbia. The killdeer was 
seen at Fort Churchill, Keewatin, and at Fort Resolution, Mackenzie, 
by parties of the Biological Survey, and these observations very 
materially extend its previously known northern range. The 
breeding range of the killdeer extends much farther south than that 
of other northern breeding shorebirds. The species breeds not only 
throughout the whole of the United States, but south to Cape St. 
Lucas, Lower California (Xantus), and to Rio Sestin, Durango 
(Miller). Killdeers occur in Newfoundland in the fall (Reeks), but 
are not known to breed on that island. 

Winter range. — The winter range is much less extensive than the 
summer. Though there are records of the presence of the species in 


Paraguay (Sharpe) and Chile (Salvin) , it is probable that these repre- 
sent casual occurrences and that regularly the species ranges to the 
Bermudas (Jardine), throughout the West Indies and the neighboring 
northern coast of Venezuela (Ernst) , but not farther east or south 
on the Atlantic coast; while on the Pacific it regularly passes south 
to northwestern Peru (Sclater and Salvin) and the interior of Colom- 
bia and Medellin (Sclater and Salvin) . The northern winter range 
extends regularly to North Carolina (Brimley), Tennessee (Gettys), 
central Texas (Brown), rarely southern Arizona (Mearns), and 
throughout most of the southern half of California (Fisher) . Casual 
occurrences have been noted in Maryland (Stabler), Pennsylvania 
(Burns), and Rhode Island (Mearns). After the great storm of 
November, 1888, which carried large numbers of killdeer to the 
New England coast several weeks later than the usual time for 
their disappearance from that part of their range, many of these 
birds failed to undertake a second southward migration and remained 
on the coasts of Massachusetts (Torrey), New Hampshire (Chad- 
bourne) , and southwestern Maine (Brown) . Most of them perished 
during the winter, but on the Massachusetts coast a few managed 
to endure. An occasional killdeer passes a mild winter in southern 
Ohio (Jones) , southern Indiana (McAtee) , or on the Pacific coast to 
Washington (Johnson). 

Spring migration. — The killdeer is among the earliest migrants 
among shorebirds, and is not far behind the earliest migrating land 
birds. Its loud, piercing, oft-repeated calls make its identification 
easy, and many data have been accumulated concerning the time of 
its migrations. These begin in February in the northern part of the 
winter range, and during that month many crowd northward to the 
limit of unfrozen ground. Such birds arrive on the average near 
Asheville, N. C, February 22, earliest February 18, 1893 (Cairns); 
central Kentucky, February 25, earliest February 19, 1906 (Embody) ; 
Brookville, Ind., February 23, earliest February 15, 1890 (Butler). 
The early days of March find the killdeer in full migration far beyond 
its winter home, and its arrival has been noted as follows: Variety 
Mills, Va., average March 13, earliest March 2, 1888 (Micklem); 
White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., average March 9, earliest March 2 
1891 (Surber); Washington, D. C, average March 18, earliest Feb- 
ruary 14, 1908 (Hollister) ; Waynesburg, Pa., average March 8, ear- 
liest February 24, 1891 (Jacobs); Berwyn, Pa., average March 14, 
earliest January 29, 1889 (Burns); Branchport, N. Y., average 
March 19, earliest March 1, 1890 (Burtch); Jewett City, Conn., 
average for twenty-one years March 17, earliest March 2, 1888 (Jen- 
nings) ; central Rhode Island, average March 19, earliest February 27, 
1902. Even as far north as Rhode Island, the killdeer is so rare 
that a market gunner near Newport (Sturtevant) secured only three 
during eight years while shooting several thousand shorebirds. 


There seems to be a section west of the Allegheny Mountains in 
which the killdeer arrives earlier than at corresponding latitudes 
either east or west. The average date of arrival at Waterloo, Ind., 
is March 5 (Link); Oberlin, Ohio, March 5 (Jones); Livonia, Mich., 
March 10 (Alexander); and Petersburg, Mich., March 10 (Trombly). 
Near there in Pennsylvania, on the western side of the mountains, 
the date of arrival at Waynesburg has already been given as March 
8 (Jacobs). At the same latitude in Pennsylvania east of the 
mountains the killdeer arrives a week later, while to the westward 
of Indiana the retardation of migration is shown by the following 
dates of arrival: Central Missouri, average March 12, earliest Feb- 
ruary 4, 1890 (Bush); southern Iowa, average March 12, earliest 
March 2, 1906 (Davison) ; southern Wisconsin, average of thirty years 
March 15, earliest March 2, 1887 (Welman); Chicago, 111., average of 
sixteen years March 21, earliest February 28, 1895 (Woodruff). 
Farther north in Ontario, as the killdeer nears the limit of its breed- 
ing range, the arrival is much delayed; southern Ontario is not 
reached on the average until March 23, earliest March 7, 1903 (Smith), 
while the average date at Ottawa, Ontario, is April 17, earliest 
March 18, 1894 (White). Dates of arrival farther west are: Man- 
hattan, Kans., average March 8, earliest February 27, 1882 (Lantz); 
Onaga, Kans., average March 4, earliest February 23, 1891 (Creve- 
coeur); Syracuse, Nebr., average March 10, earliest February 26, 
1902 (Hunter) ; central South Dakota, average March 24, earliest 
March 20, 1889 (Cheney) ; Lanesboro, Minn., average March 29, ear- 
liest March 13, 1889 (Hvoslef ) ; Argusville, N. Dak., average April 7, 
earliest March 31, 1893 (Edwards); Larimore, N. Dak., average 
April 7, earliest April 3, 1893 (Eastgate) ; southern Manitoba, aver- 
age April 5, earliest March 24, 1902 (Criddle) ; Qu'Appelle, Saskatche- 
wan, average April 16, earliest April 8, 1903 (Wemyss) ; two seen 
June 25, 1903, at Fort Resolution, Mackenzie (Preble). 

The advance in the Rocky. Mountains is not so late comparatively 
as in most species: Cheyenne, Wyo., average March 21, earliest 
March 16, 1889 (Bond) ; Rathdrum, Idaho, average March 30, ear- 
liest February 19, 1902 (Danby) ; Terry, Mont., average April 6, 
earliest March 29, 1897 (Cameron); Big Sandy, Mont., average 
April 6, earliest April 3, 1904 (Coubeaux) ; Red Deer, Alberta, April 
11, 1893 (Farley); Portland, Oreg., February 27, 1900 (Nicholas); 
Grays Harbor, Washington, February 16, 1892 (Lawrence); southern 
British Columbia, February 28, 1888 (Brooks). South of the breed- 
ing grounds the last was seen at San Jose, Costa Rica, March 12, 1890 
(Cherrie), and at Sisal, Yucatan, May 9, 1865 (Schott). 

The date of nesting seems to bear little relation to the latitude. 
Eggs have been taken at Cape St. Lucas, Lower California, May 9, 
1860 (Xantus); Monterey, Calif., March, 1867 (Day and Spencer); 


Variety Mills, Va., April 12, 1886 (Micklem) ; Laurel, Md., just hatch- 
ing April 24,1897; Erie,Pa.,April7,1888(Todd); Canandaigua,N.Y., 
April 23, 1879 (Howey) ; Bloomington, Ind., April 12, 1903 (McAtee); 
Kingston, Ontario, May 1, 1905 (Beaupre); Eagle Pass, Tex., March 
18, 1884 (Negley); Corvallis, Oreg., downy young late April (Wood- 
cock); Tacoma, Wash., April 14, 1908 (Bowles) ; Edmonton, Alberta, 
eggs May 19, 1897 (Macoun). 

Fall migration. — The few records of fall arrival south of the breed- 
ing range show that the killdeer is one of the late migrants. It was 
noted in Porto Kico, October 18, 1899, and October 7, 1900 (Bowdish) ; 
San Jose, Costa Rica, October 15, 1891 (Cherrie); and on the coast of 
Peru, October 24, 1867 (Sclater and Salvia). 

The last noted in southern British Columbia was November 28, 
1888 (Brooks); Aweme, Manitoba, average September 23, latest 
September 30, 1901 (Criddle); Onaga,. Kans., average October 22, 
latest November 8, 1896 (Crevecoeur) ; Lincoln, Nebr., latest Novem- 
ber 18, 1900 (Wolcott); Delavan, Wis., November 6, 1894 (Hollister); 
southern Iowa, average November 10, latest December 25, 1886 
(Houghton); Chicago, 111., average October 21, latest November 13, 
1885 (Holmes); southern Michigan, average November 1, latest 
November 13, 1891 (Alexander); Ottawa, Ontario, average Septem- 
ber 11, latest October 16, 1905 (White); southern Ontario, average 
October 19, latest November 10, 1900 (Saunders); Wauseon, Ohio, 
average November 9, latest November 23, 1891 (Mikesel); Waterloo, 
Ind., average November 7, latest November 21, 1905 (Link); Mon- 
treal, Canada, September 1, 1895 (Wintle); Phillips, Me., October 24, 
1905 (Sweet); Block Island, R. I., November 5, 1889 (Dodge); 
Branchport, N. Y., November 29, 1896 (Stone); Suffield, Conn., 
November 16, 1887 (Smith); Erie, Pa., November 26, 1891 (Todd); 
Berwyn, Pa., average November 3, latest November 22, 1886 (Burns) ; 
Bloomington, Ind., December 12, 1885 (McAtee); St. Louis, Mo., 
December 18, 1887 (Widmann). 

[Santo Domingo Killdeer. Oxyechus vociferus torquatus (Linn.). 

The Santo Domingo killdeer is the resident form of the West Indies, breeding in 
Cuba, the Isle of Pines, Jamaica, and Haiti, and probably also in Porto Rico.] 

Semipalmated Plover. JEgialitis semipalmata (Bonap.). 
Breeding range. — The present known summer home of the semi- 
palmated plover extends north to Cumberland Sound (Kumlien), 
Melville Peninsula (Parry), Wellington Channel (Greely), and Melville 
Island (Parry). The occurrence of the species at these two latter 
places, latitude about 75° N., makes it probable that it occurs equally 
far north on the western side of Baffin Bay. It is common on the 
arctic coast of America as far west as the mouth of the Mackenzie 
(MacFarlane). Thence westward it seems to be rare on the northern 
coast of Alaska (Nelson), but is tolerably common in Kotzebue 


Sound (Townsend). It seems to be more common in the middle 
Yukon Valley (Bishop) than on the coast. 

This plover breeds south to Sable Island (Dodd); southern New 
Brunswick (Cheney); the Magdalen Islands (Brewster); southern 
James Bay (Todd) ; York Factory, in southern Keewatin (Preble) ; 
probably rarely in northern Manitoba (Macoun) ; on the Slave River 
of southern Mackenzie (Preble); Lake Marsh, southern Yukon 
(Bishop); and to the mouth of the Yukon, Alaska (Dall and Ban- 

Winter range. — The species winters on both coasts of South 
America — south to Port Desire, 48° S. (Seebohm), on the east coast, 
and to central Chile (Schalow) on the west ; thence through northern 
South America, Central America, and the West Indies to the southern 
Bahamas (Bonhote), Florida (Worthington), the coast of Georgia 
(Helme), South Carolina (Kendall), Mississippi (Allison), and Loui- 
siana (Beyer) ; on the Pacific coast of Mexico, north to southern Lower 
California (Brewster). In winter it is thus one of the most widely dis- 
tributed of the shorebirds. 

Migration range. — The species is a common migrant in eastern 
North America west to the eastern parts of Texas (Beckham), 
Nebraska (Wolcott), and Saskatchewan (Macoun). Thence over the 
plains and throughout the whole Rocky Mountain district it is almost 
unknown, but reappears on the Pacific Coast, and ranges west in 
migration to the central Aleutian Islands (McGregor), the Pribilof 
Islands (Prentiss), and even occasionally across Bering Strait to the 
coast of Siberia (Nelson). 

Spring migration. — At least four-fifths of the dates on the spring 
migration of this species fall in May. This is true for the entire district 
between the winter and summer homes, and the dates indicate that 
the migration in the United States occurs chiefly between May 10 and 
June 1. An unusually early individual was taken April 7, 1875, at 
Erie, Pa. (Sennett). Other spring dates are: Magdalena Bay, Lower 
California, March 12, 1889 (Bryant); Monterey, Calif., April 17, 1903; 
Vancouver Island, British Columbia, April 28, 1894 (Kermode); 
Mount McKinley, Alaska, May 17, 1908 (Sheldon); Kowak River, 
Alaska, May 30, 1899 (Grinnell) ; Pea and Bodie islands, North Caro- 
lina, April 25, 1905 (Bishop); Lincoln, Nebr., April 27, 1900 (Wol- 
cott) ; southern Ontario, average of six years May 18, earliest May 8, 

1885 (Gamier); Melville Peninsula, May 31, 1882 (Parry); Wellington 
Channel, June 6, 1851 (Greely). The species was taken in Cuba as 
late as May 22, 1900 (Palmer and Riley); southern Florida, May 25, 

1886 (Scott) ; from New Jersey to the Great Lakes it remains regularly 
to the first week in June — latest Oberlin, Ohio, June 17, 1904 (Jones) ; 
latest Worth, 111., June 20, 1894 (W oodruff ) ; and along the coast of 
Maine nonbreeders occur all summer (Knight). 


Eggs have been taken at Grand Manan, New Brunswick, June 21, 
1875 (Cheney); James Bay, June 18, 1896 (Macoun); Cape Fuller- 
ton, June 28, 1904 (Eifrig); Fort Anderson, June 11, 1863 (Mac- 
Farlane); Fort Yukon, Alaska, June 2, 1862 (Lockhart); Lake 
Marsh, Yukon, just hatched, July 2, 1899 (Bishop). 

Fall migration. — At one of the most southern breeding places, 
near York Factory, Keewatin, in 1900, the most advanced young 
were still in the downy stage July 10 (Preble), and yet by this time 
the species is already in full fall migration, and the earliest individuals 
have appeared several hundred miles south of the breeding range: 
Toronto, Ontario, July 5, 1890 (Fleming); Rhode Island, July 6 
(Howe and Sturtevant); Coronado de Terraba, Costa Eica, July 3, 
1907 (Carriker); Margarita Island, off the coast of Venezuela, July 
7, 1895 (Robinson). The regular fall migration is about a month 
later: Sitka, Alaska, common after July 25, 1896 (Grinnell); Prince 
Edward Island, average of three years August 13 (Bain); Long 
Island, New York, average of seven years August 6, earliest July 17, 
1905 (Latham); Grenada, West Indies, August 24, 1881 (Wells); 
Santa. Catarina, Brazil, August 4 (Sharpe). 

Though most semipalmated plover migrate early, a few stay until 
freezing weather: Ottawa, Ontario, average of five years September 
19, latest September 29, 1885 (White); Prince of Wales Sound, 
Ungava, latest September 25, 1886 (Payne); Prince Edward Island, 
average of three years, October 13 (Bain); Erie, Pa., rare after Octo- 
ber 1, latest November 2, 1901 (Todd); Point Pelee, Ontario, October 
29, 1905 (Taverner and Swales); Grinnell, Iowa, October 22, 1886 
(Jones); Los Angeles County, Calif., October 17, 1894 (Grinnell). 

Ringed Plover. Mgialitis Maticula (Linn.). 
Both coasts of Greenland are included in the breeding range of 
the ringed plover, from the southern end to Sabine Island (Scoresby) 
on the east coast and to McCormick Bay (Schalow) on the west. 
Across Smith Sound from this latter place and one degree farther 
north, at Buchanan Bay, Ellesmere Island, latitude 78° 48' (Feilden) 
is the farthest north the species has been found in the Western Hemi- 
sphere, though north of Europe it has been taken at 83° latitude. 
On the American side it breeds south to Cumberland Sound (Kumlien) ; 
also south to central Europe and Turkestan, and east to the New 
Siberian Islands, and occurs casually east to the Chuckchi Peninsula. 
The winter is spent from the shores of the Mediterranean to southern 
Africa and rarely to northwestern India. It has wandered to Chile 
(Sharpe), and to Barbados, September 10, 1888 (Feilden). The 
first arrived at Cumberland Sound in 1878 about the middle of June 

Little Ringed Plover. JEgialitis dubia (Scop.). 

The claim of the little ringed plover to a place among North American 
birds is rather slight. A specimen is supposed to have been taken on 


the coast of Alaska (Harting), and one is recorded from San Fran- 
cisco, Calif. (Ridgway). In each case the bird was far from home, 
for the breeding grounds of the species are in southern Europe, 
central Asia, and north to about 60° latitude. The species winters 
in the northern half of Africa, and in Asia south to India, and the 
Malay Archipelago. 

Piping Plover. Mgialitis meloda (Ord). 

Breeding range. — The northern limit of the piping plover's breed- 
ing range is in Nova Scotia (Bryant), the Magdalen Islands in the 
Gulf of St. Lawrence (Bishop), southern Ontario (Saunders), central 
Manitoba (Bendire), southern Saskatchewan (Macoun), and proba- 
bly southwestern Keewatin (King). It is very local in its distribu- 
tion during the breeding season, and is unknown over most of the 
district mentioned above. Formerly it nested on the coast of Vir- 
ginia at Cobbs Island (Kirkwood), and was fairly common as a breeder 
on the New Jersey coast (Scott). Now it is rare as a breeder any- 
where on the Atlantic coast south of Nova Scotia, though still nesting 
at a few localities south to southern New Jersey (Stone). In the 
interior it nests as far south as Erie, Pa. (Todd) ; the lake shore in 
northern Ohio (Jones) ; near Lake Michigan in northwestern Indiana 
(Woodruff); and west to central Nebraska (Bruner, Wolcott, and 
Swenk) . 

Winter range. — The coast of Texas (Sennett) and the coasts of 
Florida (Scott) and Georgia (Worthington) constitute the principal 
winter home of this species. Indeed, it is probable that records at 
other places represent stragglers. The West Indies are commonly 
included in the winter range, but the species seems to be only casual 
in migration south of the United States. It was taken once in Porto 
Rico in August (Gundlach); Jamaica in November (Gosse); a few 
in Cuba in April of a single year (Gundlach) ; several on three islands 
of the Bahamas in May (Bangs) and July (Bonhite); three indi- 
viduals in the Bermudas in the fall (Reid) . It has occurred occasion- 
ally on the New Jersey coast in winter (Stone). 

Spring migration. — Dates of spring arrival are very irregular. The 
average date on Long Island, New York, is April 7; earliest March 
24, 1884 (Dutcher); eastern Massachusetts, average April 12, earliest 
March 26, 1893 (Mackay); southern Ontario, average May 16, ear- 
liest May 1, 1891 (Fleming). Some other dates of arrival are: Cum- 
berland, Ga., March 10, 1902 (Helme); near Newport, R. L, March 
24, 1903 (King); Erie, Pa., April 16, 1900 (Todd); Oberlin, Ohio, 
May 13, 1907 (Jones); Sioux City, Iowa, May 8, 1904 (Rich); Gib- 
bon, Nebr., May 4, 1888 (Thatcher); Indian Head, Saskatchewan, 
May 16, 1892 (Macoun). Thus, in general, migration up the Missis- 
sippi Valley is much later than at corresponding latitudes on the 


Atlantic coast. Stragglers were noted at Cheyenne, Wyo., May 30, 
1892 (Bond), Julesburg, Colo., May 17, 1899 (Dawson), and Natash- 
quan, Labrador, May 31, 1909 (Townsend and Bent). 

Eggs have been taken at Big Charity Island, Michigan, May 20, 1903 
(Arnold); Erie, Pa., May 24, 1900 (Todd); Long Beach, New Jersey, 
June 12, 1877 (Scott); Magdalen Island, June 16, 1897; Cedar Point, 
Ohio, June 26, 1903 (Jones); Miller, Ind., June 13, 1905 (Butler); 
Miner County, S. Dak., June 5, 1891 (Patton); near Indian Head, 
Saskatchewan, June 18, 1892 (Macoun). Downy young were taken 
July 21, 1906, at Big Stick Lake, southwestern Saskatchewan (Bent). 

Fall migration. — The first was seen on the coast of North Carolina 

July 14, 1904 (Bishop); and at Fernandina, Fla., August 3, 1906 

(Worthington) . It was taken at Corpus Christi, Tex., all through 

July, 1887 (Sennett), but these may have been nonbreeders that 

summered on the coast. In general the species migrates so early 

that it is seldom found north of its winter home after August. Late 

dates are: Long Island, New York, August 30, 1889 (Scott); eastern 

Massachusetts, August 26, 1888 (Miller); Erie, Pa., September 26, 

1902 (Todd). 

Snowy Plover. JEgialitis nivosa Cass. 

Breeding range. — The sea coasts and the shores of the larger lakes 
of western United States constitute the principal breeding grounds 
of the snowy plover. The species nests at least as far north as Pes- 
cadero, Calif. (Willard) ; Humboldt River, Nevada (Hanna) ; Salt 
Lake, Utah (Ridgway); Comanche County, Kans. (Goss); and on 
the coast of Texas (Sennett). It is extremely local in the interior. 
It breeds south at least to Corpus Christi, Tex. (Sennett), and prob- 
ably along the northern third of the western coast of Lower California 

Winter range. — It winters in Chile south at least to Calbuco, lati- 
tude 41° S. (Schalow), and thence north in Peru (Sclater and Salvin), 
Guatemala (Salvin), and Mexico (Belding) to the coast of California 
at Santa Barbara (Keck). On the Atlantic side it winters as far 
north as Aransas Bay, Texas (Sennett). 

Migration range. — Outside of the regular winter and summer homes, 
the species has been taken once in Brazil (specimen in United States 
National Museum); Margarita Island, off the coast of Venezuela, 
July 2, 1895 (Robinson); Guantanamo, Cuba, July, 1858 (Gundlach); 
Long Island, Bahamas, July 16, 1903 (Riley); Celestun, Yucatan, 
April 12, 1865 (Schott); Whitfield, Fla., May 5, 1903 (Worthington); 
Bay St. Louis, Miss., September 19-20, 1899 (Allison); Toronto, 
Ontario, twice (Fleming); Lincoln, Nebr., May 17, 1903 (Swenk); 
Cheyenne, Wyo., once (Bond); Newport, Oreg., March 24, 1906 
(Shaw); Grays Harbor, Washington, September 3, 1899 (Dawson). 

Spring migration. — The snowy plover was seen in Comanche 
County, Kans., May 12, 1887 (Goss), and at San Francisco, Calif., 


April 8, 1857 (Hepburn). The species has been taken at Cavanche, 
Chile, in May (Schalow), and at Coquimbo, Chile, in June (Sharpe). 
It may prove to be resident in Chile. 

Eggs have been taken in Los Angeles County, Calif., April 25, 
1899 (Robertson), and young, May 1, 1897 (Grinnell); also eggs at 
Santa Cruz, Calif., April 16, 1873 (Cooper). In southern Kansas the 
eggs are laid in late May (Goss) . 

Fall migration. — Fall migrants have been recorded in September 
from Guatemala (Salvin), and in October from the southern limit of 
the range in Chile (Schalow). The species has been taken at San 
Francisco as late as November 1, 1898 (Hornung). 

Mongolian Plover. Mgialitis mongola (Pall.). 

In the summer of 1849 Captain Moore of the Plover in his search 
for Sir John Franklin touched at the Choris Peninsula, Alaska, and 
while there secured two specimens of the Mongolian plover — the 
first and only individuals ever taken in North America. The breed- 
ing range of the species is on the opposite side of Bering Sea, on 
the Commander Islands, and in northeastern Siberia. It migrates 
through Japan and China, and winters from the Philippines to 

[Azara Ring Plover. Mgialitis collaris (Vieill.). 

The Azara ring plover is the only true shorebird found in Central America that 
does not range north to the United States. It has a wide distribution in South 
America, south to Argentina, extends north to southern Mexico, and has been taken 
once on Grenada, West Indies.] 

Wilson Plover. Ochthodromus wilsonius (Ord). 

Breeding range. — The Wilson plover is found in summer through- 
out the northern Bahamas (Bonhote) and along the Gulf coast of 
the United States from Florida (Scott) to Texas (Merrill), and 
breeds along the Atlantic coast at the present time as far north as the 
islands off the southeastern coast of Virginia (Dutcher) ; many years 
ago it bred occasionally on the New Jersey coast (Wilson). The 
summer status of the species on the Pacific coast of Lower California 
is not yet definitely settled. It was found common at Abreojos 
Point, June 17, 1897 (Kaeding), but whether or not it was breeding 
was not determined. 

Winter range. — The winter range is not known with certainty, 
because the West Indies are occupied by a resident subspecies, 
rufinucJius, and sufficient material has not yet been accumulated to 
determine the relative areas occupied by the two forms in winter. 
The northern form winters as far north as southern Florida — form- 
erly northern Florida (Scott) ; the coast of southern Texas (Merrill) ; 
Guaymas, Sonora (Nelson) ; and La Paz, Lower California (Belding) . 
Thence it ranges south to the Pacific coast of Guatemala (Salvin). 

Spring migration. — Dates of arrival on the Atlantic coast are: 
Amelia Island, Florida, April 2, 1906 (Worthington) ; Darien, Ga., 


March 19, 1890 (Worthington) ; Cumberland Island, Georgia, March 
18, 1902 (Helme)- Frogmore, S. C, March 26, 1886, and March 20, 
-1888 (Hoxie); Port Macon, N. C, April 15, 1869 (Coues). The 
species has wandered north on the coast several times to Long 
Island (Dutcher), once to Connecticut (Purdie), once to Massachu- 
setts (Coues) , and even to Nova Scotia (Goss) . The only record for 
the Pacific coast of the United States is that of the single bird taken 
June 29, 1894, at Pacific Beach, California (Ingersoll). 

Eggs have been taken at Sarasota Bay, Florida, April 8 (Moore) ; 
coast of Georgia, April 29 (Bailey); Corpus Christi, Tex., April 25 
(Chapman); Cobbs Island, Virginia, May 7 (Oates). 

[Rufous-nap ed Plover. Ochthodromus wilsonius rufinuchus ( Bidgw . ) . 
The principal home of the subspecies rufous-naped plover is the Greater Antilles, 
whence it spreads to the neighboring coasts of British Honduras and Guatemala; 
probably also to Yucatan. It breeds also in northern South America on the coast 
of Colombia, Venezuela, and Guiana. While some individuals remain all the year 
on the breeding grounds, others migrate a short distance to several of the islands of 
the Lesser Antilles and to Brazil as far south as Bahia. It is probably this form that 
occurs on the coast of Ecuador and Peru, but from lack of specimens this point is not 

Mountain Plover. Podasocys montanus (Towns.). 
Breeding range. — The mountain plover seems to be confined in 
summer to the United States, but closely approaches the boundaries, 
both north and south. In 1874 it was found breeding and not uncom- 
mon on the Frenchman River in Montana (Coues), not far from the 
Canadian boundary, and on Milk River, Montana (Coues), right at 
the line, but so far has not been recorded anywhere in Canada. It 
breeds south to northern New Mexico (Henshaw); east to north- 
western Texas (Bailey), western Kansas (Fisher), and western 
Nebraska (Bruner), west to Sun River, Montana (Dutcher), Fort 
Bridger, Wyo. (Drexler), Del Norte, Colo. (Hill and Orth), and San 
Miguel County, New Mexico (Mitchell). 

Winter range. — This species winters from northern California 
(Cooper) , southern Arizona (Osgood) , and San Antonio, Tex. (Beck- 
ham), south to Zacatecas, Mexico (Sharpe), and La Paz, Lower 
California (Sharpe). It is one of the few species that winters far- 
ther west than it breeds. 

Migration range. — The more eastern individuals of this species 
probably follow the usual north and south migration route, keeping 
to the plains east of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, but some 
of the more western individuals take a very peculiar course in migra- 
tion. The species is a tolerably common migrant at Marysville in 
northern California (Belding), arriving in November. Whence come 
these November birds? The nearest point of the breeding range is 
northwestern Montana in the vicinity of Great Falls (Williams). To 
reach Marysville from Great Falls the plover must pass through 


Idaho and either Oregon or Nevada, but in these three States it is 
unknown, and seems not to be recorded from Utah. So the birds 
that visit California are separated from the nearest known habitat 
of the species by a zone about 600 miles wide and containing two 
ranges of high mountains. 

Spring migration. — The mountain plover is among the early 
migrant shorebirds. It arrived on the average at Beloit, Colo., 
March 26, earliest March 23, 1890 (Hoskins); Loveland, Colo., March 
18, 1887 (Smith). 

Eggs have been taken at Fort Lyon, Colo., June 9, 1886 (Thorne) ; 
San Luis Valley, Colo., June 10,1873 (Henshaw); young just hatched 
at Terry, Mont., June 15, 1898 (Cameron); young at Colby, Kans., 
June 28, 1893 (Fisher); eggs near North Platte, Nebr., July 8, 1859 

Fall migration. — The first was seen at Corpus Christi, Tex., July 25, 
1887 (Sennett); Pecos City, Tex., August 1, 1903 (Ligon). Quite 
a party of them was seen at James Island, Florida, July 20 to August 1, 
1901 (Williams), but they were probably only stragglers. The last 
one noted in 1890 at Beloit, Colo., was on October 15 (Hoskins). 
Surf Bird. Aphriza virgata (Gmel.). 

The breeding range of the surf bird is unknown, for the bird has 
never been encountered in its summer home. It goes north along 
the Pacific coast of the United States in spring, and has been traced 
all along the coast to the Kowak River, Alaska, where it arrived 
May 29, 1899 (Grinnell). Then it disappears and is not seen again 
until on its way south the latter part of July. The natives say it 
breeds on the mountains a few miles back from the coast. 

The surf bird winters in Chile, as far south as the Strait of Magellan 
(Sharpe), and is known in migration on the coasts of Peru (Tschudi), 
Ecuador (Hartert), Mexico (Xantus), and Lower California (Kaed- 
ing). It arrived at Newport, Oreg., April 25, 1895; April 27, 1897; 
May 3, 1899; April 27, 1900; average of the four years April 28 
(Bretherton) . Agreeing well with this date is its appearance at San 
Geronimo Island, Lower California, March 15, 1897 (Kaeding) ; and 
the date already given of May 29 at Kowak River, Alaska (Grinnell). 
An extra early date is March 8, 1859, at Puget Sound, Washington 
(Kennerly). The latest recorded date at the Strait of Magellan is 
March 3, 1879 (Sharpe) ; the species was common at Abreojos Point, 
Lower California, April 19, 1897 (Kaeding) ; a belated bird was taken 
on the Farallon Islands, Calif., June 3, 1903 (Kaeding). Several 
appeared in fall migration at Sitka, Alaska, July 21 (Grinnell) ; New- 
port, Oreg., July 24, 1900 (Bretherton) ; Monterey Bay, Calif., August 
3, 1894 (Loomis) ; Vaqueria, Ecuador, September 16, 1901 (Hartert). 
The species has been noted at St. Michael, Alaska, until the first of 
October (Nelson), and at Berkeley, Calif., as late as October 24, 1888 


Turnstone . Arenaria inter pres ( Linn . ) . 

Breeding range. — The turns tone inhabits nearly the whole of the 
Eastern Hemisphere and a small part of the Western. It breeds 
along the whole Arctic coast of Europe and Asia and south to Japan 
and the islands in the Baltic Sea. It ranges eastward across Bering 
Strait at least to Point Barrow, Alaska (Stone), and breeds south to 
the mouth of the Yukon (Nelson) and on the islands of St. Lawrence 
(Nelson) and St. Matthew (Elliott) in Bering Sea. Its range to the 
northeastward in North America has not yet been definitely settled. 
Two specimens from the west coast of central Greenland have been 
identified by W. Palmer as interpres. No specimens were exam- 
ined by him from any point between Greenland and the Anderson 
Kiver, Mackenzie; the specimens from this latter place are certainly 
morinella. Where the dividing line between the two forms runs is 
not certain, but since the birds of eastern Ungava are morinella, it 
is probable that this is the form occurring on the islands near the 
Arctic coast of North America and equally probable that the records 
on the islands northwest of Greenland should be referred to interpres. 
The species has been recorded along the whole west coast of Green- 
land, and was found breeding at Disco Bay (Kumlien) and on the 
eastern and northern coasts of Eilesmere Island almost to latitude 
83° (Feilden). The turnstone, therefore, is one of the most northern 
breeding of all birds. On the eastern coast of Greenland it ranges 
at least as far north as Sabine Island, latitude 74° (Winge). * . 

Winter range. — The species winters on the coasts of nearly the 
whole of the Eastern Hemisphere from Europe and Asia to southern 
Africa, Australia, and the islands of the Pacific, Indian, and eastern 
Atlantic oceans. 

Spring migration. — The species arrived in the Aleutians at Unalaska 
May 19, 1890 (Palmer). As it winters in Hawaii (Henshaw), and is 
not known on the coast of the mainland south of Alaska, it is prac- 
tically certain that these Unalaska birds make the journey of 2,000 
miles in a single flight from Hawaii to the Aleutians. Other dates 
of spring arrival are: Mouth of the Yukon, May 19, 1879 (Nelson); 
Nulato, Alaska, May 23, 1868 (Dall); Point Barrow, Alaska, June 
12, 1882 (Murdoch), June 12, 1883 (Murdoch), and May 29, 1898 
(Stone). The dates of arrival northwest of Greenland are May 27, 
1876, at Cape Henry (Hart), and June 2, 1883, at Cape Baird 
(Greely), each near latitude 82°. 

Eggs were taken July 30, 1876, at Discovery Bay, Eilesmere 
Island, 81° 40' N. (Hart), and young were already on the wing July 
9, 1883, at Fort Conger (Greely), a few miles distant. Downy 
young were taken June 4, 1898, at Point Barrow, Alaska (Stone). 

Fall migration. — The first arrived on the Pribilof Islands July 2 
(Elliott), and after the middle of the month were abundant. The 


last ones noted were: Depot Point, Ellesmere Island, latitude 82 a> 
45' N., September 11, 1875 (Feilden); Point Barrow, Alaska, August 
29, 1882 (Murdoch), and September 4, 1897 (Stone); Nushagak,. 
Alaska, September 21, 1902 (Osgood). A specimen is reported 
taken September 8, 1904, at Pacific Beach, Calif. (Bishop), and one 
September 8, 1892, on Monomoy Island, Massachusetts (Bishop). 
Ruddy Turnstone. Arenaria interpres morinella (Linn.). 

Breeding range. — Undoubted breeding records of the ruddy turn- 
stone are very rare. It nested on the Lower Anderson and Franklin. 
Bay (MacFarlane), and specimens of the breeding birds have been 
identified as morinella. Some form of the turnstone, probably^ 
morinella, breeds on Melville Island (Sabine), on Melville Peninsula 
(Parry), and at Bellot Strait (Walker), but its identity has yet to be 
determined by the examination of specimens. 

Winter range. — The turnstone of the Western Hemisphere ranges 
south in winter to central Chile — at least to Talcahuano (Sharpe) 
and probably to Valdivia (Boeck) — and to Sao Paulo in Brazil 
(Ihering). It winters on the coasts of northern South America, in 
the West Indies, Central America, Mexico, and north to the coast of 
South Carolina (Coues), Louisiana (Beyer), Texas (Merrill), and in 
California at least as far north as San Francisco (Mailliard). 

Spring migration. — The turnstone, notwithstanding it winters so 1 
far north, is a late migrant. The probable explanation is that its 
breeding grounds in the far north are not ready for occupancy until 
nearly midsummer. It was seen May 7, 1906, on Pea and Bodie 
islands, North Carolina (Bishop). The average date of arrival on 
Long Island, New York, is May 16, earliest May 12, 1897 (Scott); 
eastern Massachusetts, May 5, earliest May 1, 1892 (Mackay); Erie, 
Pa., May 24, 1893 (Todd). It appears to be rare in spring north of 
Maine on the Atlantic coast. 

The species is rare in the interior of the United States, but has been 
noted a few times in nearly every State east of the Rocky Mountains. 
Some dates of arrival are : Starke County, Ind., May 20, 1888 (Butler) ; 
Oberlin, Ohio, May 16, 1901 (Jones); southern Ontario, average May 
27, earliest May 24, 1900 (Nash); Leech Lake, Minn., May 24, 1903 
(Currier); Indian Head, Saskatchewan, May 15, 1892 (Macoun); 
Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, May 25, 1901 (Preble); Fort Resolution,. 
Mackenzie, June 1, 1860 (Kennicott); Fort Simpson, Mackenzie, 
May 29, 1904 (Preble); Fort Anderson, Mackenzie, June 10, 1864 
(MacFarlane); Winter Island, Melville Peninsula, June 14, 1822 

It was found off the coast of Venezuela, July 2, 1892 (Hartert)^ 
July 7, 1895 (Robinson), and early July, 1901 (Clark). A few are- 
said to remain all summer on Carriacou Island, West Indies (Wells) » 
52928°— Bull. 35—10 7 


The migrant birds remain in numbers far south of the breeding 
grounds until early June: Jamaica, June 12, 1863 (Field); Arcos 
Keys, Yucatan, June 6, 1900 (Nelson and Goldman); Key West, 
Fla., June 14, 1888 (Scott); Long Island, New York, average June 
4, latest June 9, 1905 (Latham); Toronto, Ontario, June 17, 1894 
(Fleming) . 

Fall migration. — The southward movement must begin in July, for 
by early August migrants have appeared over much of the coasts of 
the United States. Some dates of fall arrival are : Monomoy Island, 
Massachusetts, July 27, 1886(Cahoon) ; Long Island, New York, average 
August 5, earliest July 27, 1892 (Scott); Monterey, Calif., July 18, 1892 
(Loomis); Fort Churchill, Keewatin, July 30, 1900 (Preble); com- 
mon at Corpus Chris ti, Tex., after July 1, 1887 (Sennett); Toronto, 
Ontario, July 30, 1898 (Nash); Henley Harbor, Ungava, August 20, 
1860 (Coues); Mingan Island, Gulf of St. Lawrence, August 16, 1887 
(Palmer); Montreal, Canada, August 17, 1891 (Wintle); Erie, Pa., 
August 24, 1889 (Sennett); Punta Rassa, Fla., August 2, 1886 
(Scott); San Mateo, Tehuantepec, August 9, 1869 (Sumichrast) ; 
Jamaica, August 13, 1863 (March); Bermudas, August 3, 1874 (Reid); 
Talcahuano, Chile, September 9, 1879 (Sharpe). Dates of the last 
seen are: York Factory, August 26, 1900 (Preble); eastern Massa- 
chusetts, October 9, 1889 (Miller); Erie, Pa., September 25, 1900 
(Todd); Long Island, New York, September 20, 1889 (Scott), acci- 
dental November 24, 1887 (Scott). 

Black Turnstone. Arenaria melanocephala ( Vig.). 
Breeding range. — The black turnstone breeds commonly on the 
coast of Alaska near the mouth of the Yukon (Nelson) and up the 
Yukon as far as Nulato (Dall and Bannister). It breeds less com- 
monly north to Kotzebrae Sound (Townsend) and south to Nushagak 
(McKay). It has been seen on the eastern side of Bering Strait 
nearly to Point Barrow, Alaska (Nelson), and on the western side to 
Herald Island (Nelson), off the northern coast of Siberia, but it is not 
yet known to breed in either of these localities. 

Winter range. — The greater number winter on the coast of Lower 
California, south to Magdalena Bay (Anthony). The species is not 
rare In winter on the California coast as far north as San Francisco 
(Mailllard), and a few have been known to winter at the Strait of 
Juan de Fuca (Suckley). It may winter occasionally even in south- 
eastern Alaska, for the National Museum has a specimen collected 
February 2, 1897, at Howkan Island, Alaska (Cantwell). 

Spring migration. — The species arrived at St. Michael, Alaska, 
about the middle of May (Nelson) and at Nulato, Alaska, May 16, 
1867, and May 23, 1868 (Dall and Bannister). 

Fall migration. — The black turnstone occurs on the Pacific coast 
from British Columbia (Kermode) to southern California throughout 


the entire summer, but is not known to breed (Grinnell) . The pres- 
ence of these nonbreeding birds prevents accurate observations on 
the arrival of the first migrants from the north, but it seems probable 
that early in July some appear on the coast of central California, and 
the species was seen August 6, 1902, on the Coronados Islands, Lower 
California (Grinnell and Daggett). The last leave the delta of the 
Yukon about the middle of September (Nelson) and Nushagak, 
Alaska, September 22, 1902 (Osgood). 

European Oyster-catcher. Hsematopus bstralegus Linn. 

The southwestern coast of Greenland has been visited several times 
by the European oyster-catcher, once as far north as Godthaab, lati- 
tude 64° (Winge). It is not certainly known to breed there, but its 
breeding range extends from Iceland and western Europe to Turke- 
stan and from southern Europe to the Arctic coast. It winters from 
central Europe to central Africa and to western India. 
Oyster-catcher. Hsematopus palliatus Temm. 

The oyster-catcher ranges south to Santa Catharina, southern 
Brazil (Sharpe), and to Arauco in central Chile (Sharpe). It 
occurs throughout most of the West Indies and Central America 
and along both coasts of Mexico — on the west coast north to the 
Tres Marias (Nelson). On the Atlantic coast it is resident as far 
north as South Carolina (Coues), and formerly was common on the 
Yirginia coast (Bailey), and bred at Great Egg Harbor, New Jersey 
(Wilson). There are a few records for the coast of Massachusetts 
(Brewer) and one at Grand Manan, New Brunswick (Boardman). 
At the present time it is rare or accidental north of Virginia, though 
a flock of about 20 was seen July 20, 1907, at Digby, Nova Scotia, 
by W. H. Osgood, of the Biological Survey. It is still resident on the 
coasts of Louisiana and Texas. 

It breeds throughout most of its regular range and probably most 
individuals are nonmigratory. The few that migrate along the south- 
ern Atlantic coast perform their short migrations principally in 
March. Eggs were taken at Corpus Christi, Tex., in 1882, April 
6 to 27 (Goss). Eggs are recorded in Florida from April 10 to May 6; 
and they have been collected on the islands of the Virginia coast 
from May 3 to July 12. 

Frazar Oyster-catcher. H&matopus frazari Brewst. 
The Frazar oyster-catcher is apparently nonmigratory, and is the 
common breeding bird of both coasts of southern Lower California, 
whence it ranges along the whole west coast of the peninsula and north 
to San Diego (Cooper), the coast of Ventura County (Evermann), and 
the Santa Barbara Islands (Cooper), casual on the coast of Sinaloa, 
Mexico (Nelson and Goldman). In the northern part of its range 
it is not so numerous as bacJtmani, whose range overlaps that of 


frazari for about a thousand miles from Ventura County, Calif., to 
Abreojos Point, Lower California (Kaeding). 

Black Oyster- catcher. Hsematopus bachmani Aud. 

The coast of "western North America is the home of the black 
oyster -catcher, and it breeds locally throughout its range from 
Abreojos Point, Lower California (Kaeding), north to Prince Wil- 
liam Sound, Alaska (Grinnell), and west to Attu Island (Turner) at 
the western end of the Aleutian chain. It winters from the coast 
of southern British Columbia (Fannin) southward. The short mi- 
gration is performed during May, and the eggs are deposited at the 
northern end of the range from the middle to the latter part of June. 
This is also the time at which eggs are most commonly found at the 
extreme southern end of the summer home. Downy young were 
taken June 17, 1900, on Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia 
(Osgood) . 

[Stone Curlew. (Edicnemus bistriatus (Wagler). 

The stone curlew is soxiiewhat generally, distributed throughout the lower portions 
of Central America from Panama to southern Mexico, and also ranges into South 
America north of the Amazon. It is nonmigratory.] 

Mexican Jacana. Jacana spinosa (Linn.). 
The Mexican jacana was described originally from Cartagena, 
Colombia, and as that remains still the only record for the country, 
the ascription to this locality was probably an error. The species is 
known from Divala, Panama (Bangs), and thence north on the 
Pacific side to Mazatlan, Mexico (Lawrence), and on the Gulf side 
to the mouth of the Rio Grande (Merrill). It is recorded from Porto 
Rico (Gundlach), Haiti (Ritter), Jamaica (Denny), and Cuba (Vig- 
ors) — rare in the first three and common in Cuba. One was taken 
October, 1899, at Lake Okeechobee, Florida (Mearns) — first record for 
the State. The species is resident throughout its regular range and 
breeds for about half the year from March to September. 

[Black Jacana. Parra nigra (Gmel.). 
The black jacana is a nonmigratory species inhabiting northern South America, 
and occurring in southern Panama.] 

[Colombian Jacana. Parra melanopygia (Sclater). 
A nonmigratory South American species found principally in Colombia, but ex- 
tending north to Panama.] 


Issued December 31, 1910 







Assistant, Biological Survey 




Bui. 36, Biological Survey, U. S. Dept. of AgriculU 

Plate I. 

Jssued December 31, 1910 








Assistant, Biological Survey 





U. S. Department of Agriculture, 

Biological Survey, 
Washington, D. C, Oct. 4, 1910. 
Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith, as Bulletin No. 36 of 
the Biological Survey, the results of an investigation by David E. 
Lantz concerning the practicability and desirability of raising deer 
and other large game animals in the United States. 

In most parts of the county the number of game animals is 
steadily diminishing and game for table use has already become a 
high-priced luxury. Experiments have shown that some species, 
especially of the deer family, can be brought to a state of semidomes- 
tication with comparative ease and can be bred and raised at very 
small cost. The chief purpose of the present bulletin is to call atten- 
tion to the importance of raising elk and deer for venison, to indicate 
the particular species most readily reared in preserves, and to empha- 
size the importance of so modifying state game laws as to encourage 
the use of private effort and capital in making a marketable com- 
modity of venison and placing it within the reach of people of mod- 
erate means. Since the distribution in 1908 of our earlier publica- 
tion on Deer Farming (Farmers' Bulletin 330) several States have 
changed their game laws in the interest of this industry, and as its 
importance becomes known others are sure to follow. 

Attention is again directed to the fact that in many parts of the 
country there are tracts of land of little or no value for agricultural 
purposes which can be more profitably used for raising venison than 
for any other purpose. 

Respectfully, Henry W. Henshaw, 

Chief, Biological Survey. 
Hon. James AVilson, 

Secretary of Agriculture. 




Introduction 7 

Importance of domesticating mammals 8 

Preservation of species 9 

Use in agriculture and transportation 10 

Use for fur 10 

Use for food 10 

Selection of species for rearing experiments 10 

The pronghorn, or American antelope 11 

Exotic antelopes 13 

The eland 13 

Thenylgai 13 

Smaller antelopes 14 

Importance of the deer family 14 

Native deer of North America 16 

Caribou 16 

Moose 18 

Wapiti, or round-horned elk .- 19 

White-tailed deer 20 

Mule deer 20 

Columbia black-tailed deer 21 

Exotic deer 21 

Altai wapiti 21 

Japanese sika • 22 

The Pere David deer 23 

Indian sambar 23 

Axis deer 23 

Small deer 24 

Objections to the introduction of foreign animals 24 

The wapiti, or Rocky Mountain elk 25 

Habits 25 

Elk venison 26 

Preservation of the elk 26 

Wild elk in the eastern United States 27 

Experience in raising elk 28 

Elk in the Ozark Mountains. 33 

Management of elk in inclosures 36 

Range 36 

Food 37 

Fence 37 

Cost of stock 37 

Viciousness of males 38 

The elk as an enemy of wolves and dogs 39 




The whitetail, or Virginia deer 40 

Experiences oi breeders 42 

A domesticated herd of deer 44 

Increase of white-tailed deer in domestication 45 

Deer hybrids 45 

Habits and management 46 

Vicious bucks 47 

Capturing live deer for shipment 48 

Wild deer in private preserves 50 

Effect on game supply 51 

Game propagation and game laws 52 

Transportation of live deer 52 

Transportation of venison 52 

Killing deer raised in private parks 53 

Sale of venison 54 

State laws recognizing private ownership of deer 55 

Resolutions by the American Breeders' Association 58 

Summary 59 



Plate I. Elk herd in the National Zoological Park, Washington, D. C. . Frontispiece. 

II. Elk in the National Zoological Park, Washington, D. C 18 

III. Fig. 1. Feeding time on farm of C. H. Roseberry, Stella, Mo. Fig. 2. 

Mule deer, National Zoological Park, Washington, D. C 20 

IV. Elk in new pasture, near Eureka Springs, Ark 34 

V. Elk park in the Ozarks, showing elimination of underbrush 34 

VI. Tame elk on Indian Rock Game Preserve, owned by C. D. Richard- 
son, West Brookfield, Mass 36 

VII. Virginia deer in park belonging to Thomas Blagden, Saranac Inn, 

Upper Saranac, N. Y 42 

VIII. Fawns of the Virginia deer at Kent Deer Park, home of C. H. Rose- 
berry, Stella, Mo 44 




Under present conditions in the United States, game animals of 
most kinds are rapidly diminishing in numbers. As game becomes 
scarcer, legal restrictions upon its pursuit and capture are of neces- 
sity increased to avoid complete extermination. Even after game 
is legally killed, the laws of some States make it impossible for the 
nonresident hunter either to carry the meat home to his family or 
to sell it. In the zeal for protecting our fast vanishing game ani- 
mals, laws have been enacted which, unless modified, will hinder or 
permanently prevent the most important movement for game preser- 
vation yet tried in this country; namely, the propagation of game 
animals, not by the State alone, but by private enterprise as well. 

A few States have recently modified their game laws so as to 
permit, under limitations, the sale of game from private preserves; 
but in many States restrictive laws still prevent the grower of such 
game from marketing it outside the State in which it is produced, 
or within the State except sometimes during a short open season. 
Complaint is made that our game laws favor sportsmen of means 
and are unfavorable to the farmer and to those citizens who, while 
themselves debarred from the pleasures of the chase, would like 
occasionally to have game on their own tables. If they could pur- 
chase venison grown in preserves, it would remove cause for com- 
plaint, and the traffic could be so regulated as not to hinder but to 
aid the protection of wild game. 

It is here urged that if the natural resources of the country are 
the heritage of the people, they should be conserved for the benefit 
of all. If private enterprise can help in game preservation, it should 
be allowed to profit from investments. The propagation of game is 
as legitimate a business as the growing of beef or mutton; and the 
producer should be permitted, under reasonable regulations, to dis- 
pose of his product at any time, either for breeding purposes or for 

The present bulletin discusses briefly the importance of domesti- 
cating wild mammals and the economic objects to be gained by the 
process. It calls attention to the species, especially those of the deer 



family, most promising for experiments in meat production, and 
relates successful experience in different sections of the United States 
with the wapiti, or Rocky Mountain elk, and with the Virginia deer. 
It discusses the relation of game laws to the business of growing 
venison — a business which, it is believed, with proper encouragement 
may be made highly profitable, especially since it will be the means 
of utilizing much otherwise unproductive land. 


The question of practical benefits to be derived from domesticating 
more species of mammals than we now have is by no means settled. 
It is claimed by some that the present list of domesticated kinds is 
ample for all economic requirements of the- human race ; that, so far 
as beasts of burden are concerned, we already have enough suited to 
every necessity; and, furthermore, that mechanical ingenuity is fast 
bringing us to a time when fewer kinds will be required. As to 
food animals, we are told that the excellence of our beef, pork, and 
mutton leaves nothing further to be desired. For clothing, it is said 
that the wools and hairs produced by mammals already under do- 
mestication amply supplement the vegetable fibers. 

On the other side, we have the argument advanced by the French 
zoologist, E. Trouessart, to the effect that mankind should now make 
every effort to domesticate as many species of mammals as possible. 
He argues that in the course of time the extensive use of electricity 
and machinery must inevitably exhaust the coal, petroleum, and 
natural gas from the earth's crust, and that mankind will again be 
forced to rely largely upon the labor of animals. He urges immedi- 
ate action because of the imminent danger of extermination of some 
of the species.® 

Between these opposite views a middle ground may be maintained. 
Admitting that we have enough beasts of burden and as great a 
variety of animal food as the actual necessities of man demand, we 
still find excellent reasons for desiring to increase the number of 
species under domestication. While it is neither necessary nor de- 
sirable to domesticate every mammal possible, the field for choice is 
large. Preliminary to choosing a species its ultimate usefulness 
must be considered. In reply to the oft-repeated argument that it 
takes so much time to develop a domestic species that the probable 
economic advantage will be overbalanced by the enormous expense 
required, it is enough to recall the fact that many wild animals show 
remarkable adaptability to the conditions imposed by domesticity. 
Canada geese, for instance, reared from the eggs of wild parents 
and kept with barnyard fowls show hardly any trace of wildness. 

° Bulletin de la Societe d'Acclimatation for 1900, pp. 33-52, 1900. 


Young mammals of various kinds when caught wild and reared in 
captivity become absolutely tame and tractable. If these tame indi- 
viduals can be bred successfully, there would seem to be few obstacles 
in the way of domesticating the species. 

However, the problems of domestication are not quite so simple 
as the above statement might imply. It must be remembered that 
captivity and changes of environment often make wild animals 
peculiarly susceptible to disease. These and other considerations 
complicate the problems, whose solution, after all, will depend mainly 
upon the patience of the experimenter. 

In considering the reasons for domesticating wild animals and 
plants, the aesthetic one should not be overlooked. A large number 
of the species that have come under human control have been tamed 
for the pleasure they afford to their owners. This is true of flower- 
ing and other ornamental plants, and of some birds — for instance, 
the canary. Probably this consideration always has weight in the 
selection of species and individuals for breeding, and it must have 
a marked influence in deciding the fitness of wild species of mam- 
mals for domestication. 

Experiments in breeding wild mammals need not necessarily be 
with a view to complete domestication. The animals may be bred in 
inclosures giving sufficient range and a habitat as nearly natural as 
circumstances will permit, and the problems of ultimate domestica- 
tion may be left for future determination. By this means the prac- 
tical economic results of full domestication may be largely antici- 
pated before the completion of the process, and the dangers incident 
to close captivity may be happily avoided. 

The chief practical objects to be sought by breeding wild mammals 
in captivity are: (1) Preservation of species, (2) use in agriculture 
or transportation, (3) use for hides and fur, and (4) use for food. 


The rapacity of man has often threatened the existence of valuable 
animals. The danger of extinction of the American buffalo, the 
African elephant, the eland, the walrus, the sea otter, and other 
species is not imaginary. Within recent times several species of 
birds have been lost to the world. Of mammals the quagga and the 
blaubok {Hippotragus leucophceus) , the latter a small relative of 
the roan antelope, have been exterminated in South Africa. Fore- 
sight might have preserved them, and foresight, aided by govern- 
mental intervention, will be needed to prevent the loss of many 
of the larger game animals of the world. Their preservation is in 
itself a sufficient reason for attempting their partial or complete 

63030°— Bull. 36—10—2 



The need of more kinds of beasts of burden is not great. The horse 
will never be surpassed in general usefulness in this capacity, and the 
other animals used in agriculture and commerce are excellent in their 
places. However, there are parts of the world where for special 
reasons the domestication of species of the native fauna might be 
of immense advantage to the people. The zebra and the elephant for 
Africa and the caribou for arctic America are examples. 


An important object to be attained by the rearing of wild mammals 
is the permanence and increase of our supply of furs. The growing 
scarcity of the better kinds of fur and the consequent high prices 
make the problem of domesticating fur-bearing animals of immense 
economic importance, while present conditions promise good returns 
to those who solve it. The beaver, the otter, the marten, the mink, 
the silver-gray fox, and the blue fox are among the mammals whose 
partial domestication and successful breeding would prove profitable. 


From the economic point of Aiew, the strongest argument for breed- 
ing mammals in captivity lies in their utility as food. For successful 
game propagation a less degree of domestication in mammals will 
suffice than when they are reared for fur or for use in agriculture and 
transportation. This circumstance greatly favors the game propa- 
gator. Besides, there is little probability that breeding game as an 
industry will ever be overdone ; the demand for the product is likely 
to keep pace with the supply. 


The larger game quadrupeds are the first to suggest themselves as 
suitable for propagation for food. The majority of our domestic 
mammals belong to the order of hoofed animals (Ungulata), and of 
these the most valuable food species are in the cloven-hoofed division 
(Artiodactyla). Pigs, goats, sheep, and oxen belong to this sub- 
order; and to the wild members of this group we naturally look for 
additions to the list of domestic food animals. 

The number of animals available for rearing experiments is quite 
large; but from any complete list of those adapted to a particular 
country a number of promising species would be rejected as super- 
fluous. As a rule the kinds native to a region should have first con- 
sideration, since they need no acclimatizing. The selection of a for- 
eign species for breeding must depend upon a similarity between its 
natural and its proposed habitat or upon its probable adaptability to 


the new environment. Adaptation may sometimes be judged from 
the history of former attempts to acclimatize it or its near relatives. 
In a country so extensive and varied as the United States the same 
principles should be considered before transferring a native species 
from one locality to another. 

Some of the large game mammals whose partial domestication in 
the United States has been favored are briefly considered under the 
following subheads: 


The pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) is a game animal not 
closely related to any other living form. While its general characters 
ally it, as well as the antelopes of the Old World, to the cattle and 
sheep family (Bovidse), it differs from other living ruminants in its 
deciduous and forked horn sheaths, and is usually considered as the 
type of a distinct family. 

A half century ago the range of the pronghorn in the plains region 
extended from the valley of the Missouri River westward to the Cas- 
cades and from the Saskatchewan in latitude 53° north, south- 
ward to the Mexican border. In Mexico the species is represented by 
a paler local race. The eastern limit of the original range of the 
antelope is not definitely known. According to Baird it was 
abundant in Minnesota on the plains of the Red River in 1850, a and 
it still occurred in the southwestern counties of that State in the early 
eighties. Pike found it common in eastern Kansas in 1806. The 
statements of the explorers of the plains indicate that it was about as 
abundant as the buffalo, although not seen in such vast herds. 

The present distribution and numbers of the pronghorn are a sad 
commentary upon earlier game protection in the West. A few fugi- 
tive bands are now to be found in the cattle country from longitude 
101° westward. The story of their decrease in all of the States is 
practically repeated in the statements of D. C. Nowlin, state game 
warden of Wyoming, in his annual report for 1906. He says that 
antelope have decreased to an alarming extent throughout the State ; 
for instance, in three years the Green River herd had diminished 
from about 6,000 to less than 2,000 head. Hundreds had perished 
through lack of food during storms, by depredations of wild animals, 
and through slaughter by Ute Indians. He repeats the recommenda- 
tion of previous reports that the legislature should prohibit all kill- 
ing of antelope for a term of years. 

In 1909 the legislature of Wyoming at last heeded the repeated 
recommendations of the game warden by passing a law protecting 

a Report U. S. Com. Patents (Agriculture) for 1851, p. 121, 1852. 


antelope until 1915. Two other States — Montana and Nevada — 
passed laws in 1909 protecting antelope indefinitely. Washington 
still has an open season, but the animals are practically extinct in 
that State. Three Canadian Provinces — Alberta, Manitoba, and 
Saskatchewan — have open seasons; and of these, Manitoba has had 
none of the animals for more than twenty years. 

In the United States antelope are now protected in every State 
in which they occur. The close season in Arizona expires March 1, 
1911; in Colorado, September 25. 1912; Kansas, March 13, 1918; 
New Mexico, March 18, 1914; North Dakota, January 1, 1920; Okla- 
homa, November 1, 1914; South Dakota, January 1, 1911; Texas, 
July 1, 1912; Utah, March 11, 1913; and Wyoming, September 25, 

Experience shows that the antelope does not do well in close con- 
finement. In zoological gardens it is short lived and seldom breeds. 
Judge J. D. Caton made a number of efforts to raise antelope in his 
park at Ottawa, 111., but the animals died within a year. Other 
breeders have had similar experience. The difficulty seems to be that 
of providing a natural environment. Judge Caton stated that the 
antelope loses its timidity sooner and more completely than any 
other wild animal whose domestication he had attempted. "When 
taken young it soon acquires the attachment of a child for the human 
species, and when captured adult in a short time becomes so tame 
that it will take food from the hand, and follow one by the hour 
walking through the grounds." None of Judge Caton's antelope 
bred, and he concluded that the climate was too humid, and that his 
pasture lacked the vegetation essential to their health. 

The experience of those who have tried to rear the antelope outside 
its natural range should not deter those who are favorably situated 
from undertaking further experiments with it. Visitors to Yellow- 
stone National Park have been greatly surprised at the tameness of 
the antelope herds. Many western ranchmen have successfully reared 
the young. The animals were allowed perfect freedom, but could 
not be driven from the premises where they were fed. Eeared in 
natural surroundings, unconfined, and with sufficient range, they 
would undoubtedly thrive and increase. In a few years by careful 
and continued taming of the young, one might secure a herd of abso- 
lutely tame antelope. Antelope require only a slight fence to con- 
fine them. They run very swiftly, but unless closely pressed will not 
jump an ordinary fence. 

The flesh of the young antelope is said to be much superior to ordi- 
nary venison. That of mature animals, particularly the males, has 
a strong flavor; but this might be greatly improved under domesti- 

°American Naturalist, X, 197, 1876. 


cation. A full-grown pronghorn weighs from 100 to 125 pounds, 
and will dress from 65 to 80 pounds. 


The Old World antelopes belong to the family of Bovidse, and 
include many valuable food animals. In Africa alone over a hun- 
dred species occur, many of them hardy and most of them excellent 
game. Fully a score of species would be promising subjects for ac- 
climatizing in America. Africa, like our own country, has arid 
sections, and some of her antelopes are probably especially adapted 
to the desert lands of our Southwest, and might be used to restock 
parts of that region from which our own pronghorn has been exter- 
minated. Some years ago a society was organized for the purpose 
of introducing the gazelle into southern California, but no practical 
results followed. 


The eland (Taurotragus) , the largest of the antelope family, is 
threatened with extermination over the greater part of its range in 
South Africa. Its average weight is from 800 to 1,100 pounds, and 
old males have been known to attain a weight of 1,400 to 1,500 
pounds. This animal has often been recommended for rearing in 
captivity because of the excellence of its flesh, which is superior to 
beef. Harris, the African traveler, states that while it resembles 
beef in grain and color, it is far better flavored and more delicate, 
possessing a pure game flavor and remarkable for the quantity of fat 
interlarded between the muscles. 

The eland was introduced into Holland by the Prince of Orange 
in 1783. It was acclimatized in England by the Earl of Derby in 
1842, and was bred successfully in his parks. After his death the 
herd passed into possession of the London Zoological Society in 1851, 
and continued to increase in numbers for many years. In 1899 the 
Duke of Bedford had a fine herd of 14 elands in the park at Woburn 

The scarcity of this game animal in a wild state and the conse- 
quent cost of obtaining stock would probably make experiments in 
breeding it in the United States so expensive as to prohibit the 
attempt by individual enterprise. However, the experience with 
the animal in Europe gives assurance that, if properly undertaken, 
efforts to acclimatize it in the United States would be successful. 


The nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus) of India is, next to the 
eland, the largest of antelope. The animal is ungainly in appear- 
ance, and its flesh is somewhat inferior to that of the eland, but its 


size, its hardiness, and its lack of wildness commend it as a species 
suitable for domestication. It stands long droughts extremely well, 
and its flesh is equal to most venison in quality. 

Nilgais were first taken to England in 1767. In 1862 a dozen of the 
animals were introduced into the park of Signor Comba at Mandria, 
Italy. In ten years the herd increased to, 172 head. A small herd 
is kept by the Duke of Bedford at Woburn Abbey, England. In 
the National Zoological Park, the Philadelphia Zoological Gardens, 
and the New York Zoological Park these animals have done well and 
bred regularly. 


Some of the smaller members of the antelope tribe are excellent 
subjects for experiments in acclimatization and breeding in the 
United States. Among them are the gazelles of Asia and Africa, 
the duikers, the springbuck, and the roan antelope of Africa, and 
the Indian antelope, or black buck. Of the duikers (Cephalophus) 
there are over twenty kinds, ranging in size from that of a medium- 
sized donkey to that of a hare; and all are said to afford excellent 
venison, while some of them are known to be easily tamed. The 
Indian antelope, or black buck, has been bred in many zoological 
gardens, and a herd is kept in the park at Woburn Abbey. It is 
easily tamed, but, as is the case with many deer and antelope, the 
tame males become ill-tempered in the pairing season. In the Phila- 
delphia and New York Zoological parks these animals have thrived 
and increased rapidly. 


The deer family (Cervidse) stands next to the cattle and sheep 
family (Bovida?) in general utility. The flesh is a valuable food, 
while the antlers or horns, as well as the skins, are important articles 
of commerce. Venison was more common than beef on the tables of 
medieval Europe, and was the flesh most commonly eaten by early 
settlers and frontiersmen in North America. Its dietetic value is 
enhanced by the fact that it is especially adapted to invalids who 
require a nourishing yet easily digested food. 

In a recently published table showing the time required to digest 
various foods, grilled venison is given first rank with boiled tripe and 
boiled rice, as requiring but one hour for complete digestion. 
Whipped raw eggs, boiled barley, and boiled trout, as well as 
asparagus and a few other vegetables, require an hour and a half. 
Grilled beefsteak and mutton require three hours for digestion, while 
grilled or roasted veal and pork require five hours, or even more.® 

"Scientific American, 01., 46, July 17, 1909. 


Except in a few species like the caribou, only male deer have 
antlers. Although these horns are deciduous, they are solid processes 
produced from the frontal bone, and have the physical as well as the 
chemical properties of true bone. They are of two general types — 
those more or less broad and flat and those rounded in shape. Those 
of the flattened type are usually the more massive, but the rounded 
antlers of the wapiti are exceptionally heavy. 

Deerhorn has several uses. It produces much gelatin by decoction, 
the product being like that from most animal substances. The rasp- 
ings and waste pieces of the horns used in manufacturing knife 
handles are either made into gelatin or boiled down into size used in 
cloth manufacture. At one time deerhorn was a prominent source of 

The principal use of deerhorn is in the manufacture of handles for 
• knives, forks, and other instruments. In Sheffield, England, some 
thirty years ago, about 500 tons of deerhorn were used annually in 
manufacture. India and Ceylon furnished about four-fifths of this 
material, while about 100 tons came from European and English deer 
forests. The 500 tons represented the antlers of fully 350,000 deer of 
various species. In Europe buckhorn is worked up into many useful 
articles, as umbrella stands, chandeliers, and ornaments for personal 

The use of deerskins is well known. As tanned and dressed by 
the American Indians they are manufactured into a variety of useful 
and ornamental articles. The inhabitants of some of the Indian 
villages of the North derive a good income from their manufactures 
of deerskins into moccasins, rackets, toboggans, and other things 
for sale. Deer hide makes an excellent leather, its value depending 
upon the size as well as upon the species from which it comes. The 
skins of wapiti, for instance, are porous, and the leather does not 
wear well, while those of the moose and European elk are so thick 
and hard that the leather is said to have resisted musket balls. In 
Sweden in former times a pair of elk-hide breeches went as a legacy 
through several generations of peasants. Formerly about 200,000 
deerskins from North America were sold annually in the London 
market. Half of these were skins of the wapiti. Many were bought 
for Germany and there manufactured into leggings, but the heavier 
skins were tanned and manufactured in England. In recent years 
the export of deerskins from America has fallen off greatly. 

Deer hair has a peculiar cellular structure, and is used in some 
parts of the world for stuffing saddles, for which purpose it is espe- 
cially suited. 

a Siinmonds, P. L., Animal Products, p. 182 (not dated). 



North America is comparatively rich in species of deer. All of 
them are valuable food animals, and nearly all have been of great 
commercial and economic value during the development of the 
country. While their commercial importance has been greatly les- 
sened as their numbers diminished, they still play an important 
part in furnishing food in newly settled parts of the United States 
and Canada, as well as in feeding the native tribes in the far North. 
Except in States that have extensive forested areas and have pro- 
tected deer for a series of years, they are rapidly disappearing be- 
fore the encroachments of agriculture. The remnant are valuable 
chiefly because they are a natural resource which may be indefinitely 
developed if carefully husbanded. It is believed that with partial 
domestication and careful management in state and private game 
preserves, deer of most of our species may again become abundant. 
Considering the difficulties, attempts to domesticate them have been 
fairly satisfactory. 


Several species and local races of the caribou, or reindeer, inhabit 
the northern part of North America. According to habitat, they 
fall naturally into two groups. The more northern, ranging beyond 
the forests, is best represented by the barren-ground caribou (Rangi- 
fer arcticus). The second group inhabits the forested area south of 
the other, and its most important representative is the woodland 
caribou (Rangifer caribou). Although they differ little from the 
wild Old World reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) in habits and gen- 
eral appearance, no attempts to domesticate the American reindeer 
seem to have been made. The larger woodland caribou is said to be 
exceedingly wild and timid, and for this reason its suitability for 
domestication has been questioned. The barren-ground species, al- 
though small, appears to be much less wild. 

Prof. S. F. Baird was strongly of the opinion that American cari- 
bou of both groups are as capable of domestication as the European 
species, and he suggested that such a step would be of vast benefit to 
Indians of the North. Its success would at once place these people 
beyond the vicissitudes which are so rapidly sweeping them off. In 
the end they might " become a pastoral people, and possibly, in time, 
as agricultural as the nature of the seasons would admit." a 

In the same paper from which the above quotation is taken Pro- 
fessor Baird suggested further that the domesticated European rein- 
deer might itself be successfully imported and propagated in North 

° Report U. S. Com. Patents (Agriculture) for 1851, p. 108, 1852. 


America, and that thus the loss of time in attempts to domesticate a 
wild species might be avoided. After the purchase of. Alaska by the 
United States, the introduction of firearms among the natives led to 
such slaughter of game that actual starvation threatened some of the 
tribes. In 1887 Charles H. Townsend advised that the Government 
should import the reindeer and teach the natives how to care for 
and use the animals. In 1891 the late Dr. Sheldon Jackson, gen- 
eral agent in Alaska of the Bureau of Education, aided by dona- 
tions from private sources, purchased a small herd of reindeer 
abroad. They arrived in Alaska in 1892. Since 1894 Congress has 
made annual appropriations for continuing the experiment. Up to 
and including 1904, the total number of reindeer imported from 
Siberia and Scandinavia was 1,280, and at that time the herds num- 
bered over 8,000. The net annual increase since importations ceased 
has been about 25 per cent. In 1907 the herds numbered 15,839 
animals and the present number is probably not less than 23,000. 
The introduction of these animals has already proved to be of im- 
mense benefit to the natives, who have been taught how to manage 
them by herders from Lapland and Finland, brought to America for 
this service. 

Through the efforts of Doctor Grenfell, Lapland reindeer have re- 
cently been introduced into Labrador and northern Newfoundland, 
and the experiment promises great success. W. J. Carroll, of St. 
Johns, Newfoundland, in commenting on the work of Doctor Gren- 
fell, says : 

" It is to be hoped that the introduction of reindeer will be the 
first step toward the domestication of our own caribou. With a 
quarter of a million of caribou running wild in the interior, increasing 
at the rate of 10,000 yearly, it will be seen that when Newfoundland 
wakes up to the possibilities of its caribou herds we will not only be 
able to have thousands of deer for commercial purposes, but also will 
have enough to keep this island a paradise for hunters when hunting 
big game on the continent becomes a thing of the past. As an in- 
stance of how they increase and multiply, Doctor Grenfell thinks 
his herd will be increased by 200 fawns this spring." a 

While the domestication of the American caribou has been made 
less important by the introduction of the reindeer, good reasons for 
breeding the native animals still remain. They would probably be 
especially useful for crossing with the Old World species. The cross 
with the woodland caribou would doubtless produce animals of 
greater size and strength, and the native caribou could constantly 
be drawn upon for new blood, just as has often been done in the case 
of the wild reindeer of northern Europe and Siberia. 

a Forest and Stream, LXX, 611, April 18, 1908, 
63030°— Bull. 36—10 3 



The largest living animal of the deer family is the moose, repre- 
sented in America by a widely distributed species (Alces americana). 
The Alaskan moose, on account of its great size, has been described 
as a separate species (Alces gig as). The European elk (A Ices 
macKlis) differs but slightly from the common moose of North 

The moose is still found in some of the wooded parts of Canada, 
from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to Manitoba, its range extend- 
ing into the United States in northern Maine, Michigan, and Minne- 
sota. In the Eocky Mountain region it ranges from northwestern 
Wyoming northwestward into Alaska. It is still fairly abundant 
in parts of Alaska and in British Columbia. Under a careful system 
of protection moose have slowly increased in numbers in Maine. A 
promising attempt has been made to reintroduce them into the Adi- 
rondacks, where they were exterminated nearly fifty years ago. 

Perhaps no other American deer is naturally so well adapted to 
domestication as the moose. Professor Baird relates that a pair of 
the animals were kept by a man living near Houlton, Me. These 
had been trained to draw a sleigh, " which they did with great steadi- 
ness and swiftness, subject, however, to the inconvenience that, when 
they once took it into their heads to cool themselves in a neighboring 
river or lake, no effort could prevent them." a Audubon relates 
another instance of a moose's being trained to draw a sleigh. We are 
informed by a number of writers that the European species was in 
former times fully domesticated in northern Scandinavia and, like the 
reindeer, was used to carry couriers from place to place. They were 
swifter than reindeer and have been known to draw a sleigh 234 miles 
in a day. It is said that this use of elk was finally forbidden under 
heavy penalties on account of their having been employed to facili- 
tate the escape of prisoners or suspected criminals, and the domestica- 
tion of the animals was consequently abandoned. 

Dr. W. T. Hornaday says of the moose that in captivity "it is 
docile; not foolishly nervous like most deer, but steady, confiding, 
and affectionate. Moose are easily handled and trained to drive in 
harness, and in contact with man manifest more common sense than 
any other species of deer with which I am acquainted." & 

In spite of this natural tendency to tameness, the efforts that have 
been made to keep moose in confinement have nearly all failed. A 
pair were kept in the Cincinnati Zoological Garden for about five 
years, but this experience is exceptional. Dr. Hornaday expresses 

a Report U. S. Com. Patents (Agriculture) for 1851, p. 115, 1852. 
6 The American Natural History, p. 141, 1904. 

Bui. 36, Biological Survey, U. S Dept. of Agriculture. 

Plate II. 


the belief that the failure is largely due to lack of vigorous daily 
exercise, which he thinks vitally necessary for the proper digestion 
and assimilation of their food. Others have suggested that most of 
the experiments have been made outside of the natural range of 
moose, and that the climate was too warm for them. On the other 
hand, individual moose reared away from the parent cow have done 
well as long as they had the freedom of the forest ; and in large pre- 
serves, such as the Blue Mountain Park in New Hampshire, the 
animals are said to thrive and increase. The difficulties in the way 
of raising them within their natural range are by no means insur- 
mountable, and the practicability of breeding them when confined to 
forested areas within the Canadian life zone has been proved. 


The round-horned elk of North America are best represented by 
the Rocky Mountain wapiti (Oervus canadensis) (Plates I and II) ; 
but, besides the typical form, two species and a geographic race 

Next to the moose, the wapiti or elk is the largest American deer. 
Though not a true elk, the name has become too firmly fixed in our 
vernacular for change. This magnificent game animal was once 
abundant over a large part of the United States, and extended its 
range northward in northwest Canada to about latitude 60° in the 
Peace River region. Southward it ranged to the southern Alleghe- 
nies, northern Texas, southern New Mexico, Arizona, and California. 
The limits of its range eastward were the Adirondacks, western New 
Jersey, and eastern Pennsylvania. Westward it occurred to the 
Pacific Ocean. 

At present the range of the elk has so far diminished that, out- 
side of the larger herds left in the Yellowstone National Park and 
the mountainous country surrounding it, the animals occur only in 
a few scattered localities. The herds in the national park and its 
vicinity are said to number about 30,000 head. Smaller numbers of 
the elk still occur in Colorado, Idaho, western Montana, western 
Oregon, northwestern California, and the Olympic Mountains in 
Washington. A remnant of the dwarf species of southern California 
is left in the upper San Joaquin Valley. Outside the United States, 
a few elk remain in southern Manitoba, Alberta, and on Vancouver 

In addition to the wild herds, a considerable number of elk are 
left in private game preserves and parks, as well as in nearly all 
public zoological gardens and parks of the United States. These 
form the nucleus from which, with good management, we may expect 

a Homaday, Wm. T., The American Natural History, p. 141, 1904. 


a restocking of some of the former ranges of the elk, and from which 
also a profitable business of raising the animals for market may be 
developed. At the present time no other member of the deer family 
seems to offer so promising a field for ventures in breeding for profit. 
Details of management and records of experience in breeding the elk 
will be given in another part of this bulletin. 


The common deer of the United States is the whitetail, or Virginia, 
deer (Odocoileus virginianus) . The species is widely distributed 
and, including the half dozen geographic races that occur within 
our borders, the range of this deer includes nearly all the United 
States, except large parts of Utah, Arizona, California, Oregon, 
and Washington. It is extinct in Delaware and practically so in sev- 
eral States of the Middle West; but it is still fairly common over 
the greater part of its original range. A number of nearly related 
species occur south of our borders. 

The whitetail is the best known of our native deer and has been 
bred in semidomestication in many localities. Its suitability for 
parks is unquestioned, and in large preserves it increases very rapidly. 
It has not always done well, owing to diseases, but the difficulties 
in the way of rearing it successfully are not greater than those that 
attend the management of some of our domestic animals. Its habits 
and management are discussed later. 


The mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) (Plate III, fig. 2) is larger 
than the whitetail, and, though less widely distributed than that 
species, had originally a vast range on the western side of the con- 
tinent. Including the six subspecies, or geographic races, it occurred 
from the Missouri Eiver westward to California and southward into 
Lower California and Sonora. East of the Continental Divide its 
range extended north into British Columbia, Alberta, and other 
provinces to latitude 56° or 57°, and south into Texas. This range 
has been greatly diminished by the encroachments of settlements 
and the lack of protecting laws, but the animals are still fairly com- 
mon in scattered localities except in the open plains country. 

Outside of its natural range the mule deer has seldom thrived. 
Indeed, many of the attempts to acclimatize it east of the Mississippi 
have failed. In zoological gardens the animals often die of dis- 
eases of the digestive organs, but in several places they do fairly 
well and have bred. They seem to have been thoroughly acclima- 
tized in the large park belonging to the late William C. Whitney, 

il. 36, Biological Survey, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture. 

Plate III. 

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CO J3 

i " 
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near Lenox, Mass., and they have bred regularly and done well in 
a small paddock at Crawfordsville, Ind. 

The mule deer has been crossed with the Virginia and other deer, 
and hybrids with the southern Virginia deer have shown a superiority 
over that race in size and stamina. The hybridizing experiments al- 
ready made give promise of an unexpected usefulness for the mule 
deer in captivity. Aside from the difficulty of acclimatizing it in 
humid regions, no unfavorable circumstances concerning it are known. 
It is prolific, its venison is excellent, and its superior size adds to its 
value as a market animal. 


The Columbia black-tailed deer (Odocoilem columbianus) is 
smaller than the mule deer or the typical Virginia deer. With its 
two geographic races it inhabits the Pacific coast west of the Cas- 
cades in northern California, Oregon, Washington, and British Co- 
lumbia to southern Alaska. Although its home is in a humid country, 
it has resisted nearly all efforts to introduce it into the eastern United 
States, and the managers of zoological parks and gardens have about 
abandoned attempts to keep it. If not closely confined, it does well in 
parks and preserves within its natural range. 


Several species of exotic deer have been acclimatized in America ; 
and, since the vast extent of our territory affords a great variety of 
conditions, it is probable that many more species could be successfully 
introduced and bred in suitable localities. The red deer and the fal- 
low deer of Europe seem to be well adapted to diverse climates, and 
are now to be found thriving in parks in many parts of the world, 
including the United States. A few other species whose habits and 
general usefulness commend them as excellent subjects for domestica- 
tion are here named. 


This wapiti {Cervus asiaticus) a occurs in the Altai and Thian Shan 
mountains, and is one of the few deer that have been extensively kept 
in sem^ domestication. Large herds of these animals were formerly 
trapped in inclosures in the Altai Mountains and are kept in captivity 
for the sake of their antlers, which are cut when in the velvet and ex- 
ported to China for use in medicine. About 6,000 of the animals 
are said to be in captivity, but owing to their destruction by hunters, 

° The proper scientific names of many exotic deer are in doubt. In this and 
one or two other instances the names here adopted are those used by Lydekker 
in his recent books on big game. 


wild wapiti of this species are now rare. Although this wapiti is 
smaller than the American species, the antlers are much larger. They 
sell at about 15 roubles ($7.50) a pound, and a single pair sometimes 
brings 120 roubles ($60).° 

The Altai wapiti has been kept in parks in various parts of 
Europe, notably at TToburn Abbey, where the Duke of Bedford in 
1896 introduced three stags and several hinds, purchased from Mr. 
Hagenbeck, of Hamburg. They have done well, but are in no way 
superior to the American wapiti, with which they interbreed. The 
Altai wapiti has bred in the Philadelphia Zoological Gardens. 


Experiments in breeding the Japanese sika (Pseudaxis nippon) in 
Europe and America show that it is one of the most promising of 
the deer family for park purposes. It inhabits northern China, 
Manchuria, and Japan, but the Japanese race has been oftenest the 
subject of experiments in breeding. 

One of the earliest to try this species in European parks was Vis- 
count Powerscourt, of Powerscourt, in Wicklow, Ireland. In 1860 
he purchased from Jamrach, the London dealer, a stag and three 
hinds and removed them to his estate, where they throve and multi- 
plied greatly. In 1884, after twenty-four years of breeding and in- 
crease, his herd consisted of over 100 individuals, although 2 or 3 ■ 
yearly had been shot, many given away, and others sold. Several 
deer parks in Ireland, England, and Scotland were stocked with this 
species from Powerscourt, and the animals thrived well in every place 
to which they were taken. 

In 18*79 Lord Powerscourt wrote: 

Japanese deer require no care of any kind; they are as hardy as fallow or 
red deer, and the venison is as good. We had a haunch last year with more 
than 2 inches of fat on it. The haunches are small and of a handy size. & 

Again, in 1884, he said : 

These pretty little deer are the only [introduced] ones which have multiplied, 
and have also never required any shelter of any kind, nor any winter feeding, ex- 
cept what the ordinary red deer and fallow deer get, such as hay, etc. * * * 
The Japanese deer here have undoubtedly interbred with the red deer ; there are 
three or four deer in the park here which are certainly hybrids, the red hind in 
each case being the dam. The Japanese are a most satisfactory little deer ; the 
venison when dressed is about the size of Welsh mutton and very well flavored. 
The little stags, with their black coats and thick necks, like miniature sambur, 
are very picturesque and ornamental, and I think they are a decided addition to 
our varieties of hardy park deer. Some of them are always to be seen in the 
Society's gardens, but these give no idea of the beauty of the animals when in a 
wild state in a park. 6 

° Lydekker, R., Great and Small Game of Europe, Asia, and America, p. 67, 1901. 

6 Proc. Zool. Soc. London for 1S79, p. 294, 1879. 

c Proc. Zool. Soc. London for 1884, pp. 208, 208, 1884. 


Although the Japanese sika will take boughs when offered, it is 
chiefly a grazing animal. It is a rough feeder and thrives on the same 
food that cattle eat. The fact that it flourishes in the humid climates 
of Ireland and the Hawaiian Islands shows that it would probably do 
equally well in almost all parts of the United States. It has been 
successfully bred in most of the zoological parks of this country, and 
no obstacle to its successful propagation in open parks is known. 

The Peking sika (Pseudaxis hortulorum) is larger than the Jap- 
anese species, much more vividly colored in summer, and, judging 
from the experience of the Duke of Bedford with his herd at Wo- 
burn, it also is admirably adapted for private parks in humid parts 
of our country. 


The Pere David deer (Elaphurus davidianus) is mentioned here 
because the species is now unknown in a wild state. When discovered 
by Pere David none were known outside of the herds in the Imperial 
Park of the Emperor of China. The subsequent destruction of the 
imperial herds in 1894 left the few individuals that had been taken to 
Europe, and their progeny, the only known living representatives of 
the species. It is now thought that the herd at Woburn Abbey are 
the sole survivors. They seem to be thoroughly acclimatized there 
and to be increasing from year to year. 


The Indian sambar (Cervus unicolor) is a large species with 
several geographic races. Although Lord Powerscourt failed to 
acclimatize these animals in his park in Ireland, they flourish at 
Woburn Abbey, where they are kept in the open. At Powerscourt 
the dense thickets and lack of sunshine were fatal to these deer. 
The species does well in zoological gardens and public parks, and 
it has often been recommended for private preserves. Like the 
wapiti, the male is vicious during the rutting season. 


The chital or spotted deer {Cervus axis) of India and Ceylon is 
one of the handsomest of ruminants. It is one of the few deer that 
is spotted with white throughout the year. The species has been 
successfully bred in European parks and in zoological gardens in 
many parts of the world. Although native to a warm country, it 
does well in England and the United States. At Woburn Abbey 
the herd is always in good condition. Its beauty makes it very 
desirable for parks. L T nlike our native deer it sheds its horns irregu- 
larly and breeds at almost any season. It has been crossed with the 
Virginia deer. 



The exotic species thus far mentioned are as large as our common 
deer, or larger. On our American farms; and ranches, especially in 
the South, there is a distinct demand for a food animal of smaller 
size than the sheep for family use. A number of species of small 
Asiatic deer might admirably fill this want. Among them are 
several of the muntjacs (Cervulus) and the Chinese water deer 
(Hydrelaphus inermis). 

The Indian muntjac (Cervulus muutjac) is probably the best- 
known species of this genus. It is a beautiful little deer, with small 
horns, and stands 20 to 22 inches high. The animals live in thickets 
and tall grass, and are said to be solitary except when pairing. 
They are timid and seldom seen except when running away from 
beaters. When cornered they defend themselves with the long 
canine teeth and not with horns and hoofs like other deer. The 
period of gestation is six months, and two young are produced 
at a time. The animals feed like sheep on almost any herbage. 
They thrive in English parks and would probably flourish in our 
Southern States. The flesh is said to be excellent. 

The Chinese water deer is less solitary in its habits, but in size and 
some other characteristics it is like the muntjacs. It is the most 
prolific of all the deer family, the female producing three or four 
young at a time. It is suited to marshy lands. 

If any one of the various small species of deer or even antelope 
could be raised in the Southern States, it would furnish the farmers 
a much needed form of meat, which could be provided fresh every 
day or two as needed. Aside from fowls most of our domestic ani- 
mals are too large for immediate consumption by the ordinary 
farmer's family. The successful introduction and breeding of a 
small mammal, in size intermediate between a hare and a sheep, 
would be of sufficient economic importance to warrant the expendi- 
ture of considerable sums of money in experiments. But this state- 
ment is true also of the domestication of any other deer. 


In suggesting the acclimatization of foreign game animals, the 
Biological Survey does not advocate their indiscriminate introduction 
into the United States nor the immediate release of any of them to 
resume their wild life. The history of the introduction of beneficial 
animals into new localities should teach caution in such experiments. 
Even species fully domesticated have become injurious when neg- 
lected and allowed to run wild. Devastations of crops by horses, 
cattle, pigs, and goats, introduced into new countries for domestic 
use and afterwards abandoned, have been known in many parts of 


the world. The destruction of native birds and mammals by dogs 
and cats that have gone wild furnishes an equally valid argument for 
caution. Probably less danger attends the acclimatization and release 
of the class of animals under discussion than- any other ; and yet it 
is known that deer and antelope under certain circumstances have 
increased so enormously as to destroy important crops. Ordinarily 
should thej^ prove injurious in the United States, the removal of 
protection would be followed by their speedy extermination as game. 



In this bulletin the life history and habits of the Rocky Mountain 
elk are discussed only so far as they bear on the care and management 
of the animals in captivity or in game preserves. 

On account of its size, the elk holds a place among American deer 
much like that occupied by the red deer among European Cervidse. 
Although a larger species, its general resemblance to the red deer 
caused early immigrants to apply that name to it. In New England, 
where there were no elk, the common Virginia deer was called the 
red deer. This confusion of names probably led to the adoption of 
the name elk for the wapiti because of its size. In view of its re- 
semblance to the red deer so common in parks in the Old World, it 
seems strange that attempts to domesticate the wapiti in America 
were so long delayed. 

The elk is both a browsing and a grazing animal. While it eats 
grass freely and can subsist upon it alone, it thrives best where there 
are also trees and underbrush. In its former range, when the sur- 
roundings permitted, it retreated into mountains and woodlands in 
summer, where it fed upon buds, twigs, leaves, and woodland grasses, 
while in winter it grazed chiefly in open prairies or glades, unless 
driven to timber by deep snows. The Wyoming herds summer chiefly 
in the high mountain pastures of the Yellowstone Park, and when 
these become covered with deep snow the animals retreat to the val- 
leys southward and eastward of the park. They formerly ranged 
far out on the plains in winter, but intense summer grazing by cattle 
and sheep now leaves the winter pasturage too scant for them. 

The American elk is extremely polygamous. The horns of adult 
bulls usually drop off in March or April, and new ones attain their 
full size within ninety days. The velvet adheres until about August, 
when it is gradually shed. The animals hasten the shedding by 
thrashing their horns against small trees and bushes. This is often 
referred to by hunters as " shaking," from the fact that the motion 
of the trees may be seen at great distances. The bulls usually lead 
solitary lives while the horns are growing, but early in September, 
63030°— Bull. 36—10 4 


when the antlers are fully matured, the rutting season begins, and the 
bulls seek the herds of cows. Fights for supremacy then take place, 
and the victor takes charge of as many cows as he can* round up and 

In spring the cows remain in small herds until nearly time for 
the calves to be born. Then each seeks a secluded place, where she 
remains until the calf is strong enough to follow. In late summer 
the cows and calves begin to collect into small herds and are soon 
joined by the bulls. The period of gestation in the elk is from 249 
to 262 days (average about 8 J months). The calves are born in May 
or June and, like the young of the common deer, are spotted, but the 
spots are not so numerous nor so clearly defined, and they disappear 
in September with the first shedding of the hair. The female elk 
does not have young until three or four years old, and usually pro- 
duces but one calf at a time. The calf follows the cow for a full year 
and sometimes even longer. 


The flesh of the elk is superior in flavor to most venison. The bulls 
are in best condition about the time the velvet is shed. By the time 
the rut is over, in October, the flesh is in the poorest condition. As 
the hunting season is usually in October and November and only 
males are killed, sportsmen often obtain the venison in poor condition, 
and, as a result, many persons have found fault with the flavor of elk 
meat. It is not best when freshly killed, but after hanging four or 
five days it becomes palatable and nutritious. Of course fat elk are 
better than lean, and it is said that the venison from castrated bulls 
is superior to that from others. 


The preservation of the Eocky Mountain elk is of even greater 
importance than that of the American buffalo. While the destruc- 
tion has not gone so far as in the case of the buffalo, absence of the 
elk from nineteen-twentieths of its former range is to be even more 
regretted. The buffalo was especially adapted to the prairies and 
the plains, and economically its place is better filled by the domestic 
cattle that now graze there. On the other hand, the elk is equally 
well, if not better, suited to rough, wooded areas not well adapted to 
cattle. Its preservation, therefore, may economically utilize such 
land, and the animals may become a valuable resource to the State as 
well as to the private owner. 

The value of game to the State is seldom so fully appreciated that 
it is properly conserved and made to yield permanent returns. Maine 
probably secures the best value from its big game. Deer and moose 


in that State now pay a large part of the cost of game protection; 
the addition of a small resident license fee for hunting would make 
the actual revenue exceed considerably the cost of fish and game 
preservation. In addition, licensed guides earn about $360,000 a 
year, while hotel keepers, railroads, express companies, and others 
derive greatly increased incomes from the sportsmen and tourists 
who are attracted to the State by its excellent hunting and fishing. 
Any State that has big game may profit by its preservation, and 
owners of private big game preserves should find them equally re- 

Its polygamous habit is a favorable factor in preserving the elk. 
The extermination of the buffalo was hastened by the fact that 
hunters, both white and native, preferred to kill the cows. Their 
flesh was superior to that of the bulls, while the robes they produced 
were of finer quality. In the course of time polyandry became so 
fixed among buffaloes that reproduction fell much below the nor- 
mal rate. In the case of the elk, polygamy is the rule; and the de- 
struction for trophies of males only, as well as the laws of States 
which forbid the killing of does, serves to perpetuate the species. 
The breeding of the animals is thus kept at a maximum rate. 

The fact that elk congregate in large herds in winter has been 
unfavorable to their preservation. Pasture in their winter ranges is 
often insufficient for the demand, and the weaker animals perish. In 
recent years, because of the encroachments of cattle and other stock 
upon the range, elk winter higher up in the mountains, where the 
snowfall is great. Poachers wearing snowshoes often approach 
and destroy an entire herd. Under adequate protection and with a 
proper supply of winter forage the gregarious habits of the elk would 
give increased security to the herds, but conditions hitherto have not 
brought about such results. On the contrary, wherever elk have 
been abundant much unlawful slaughter of the animals has taken 
place. Not only have nonresident hunters engaged in the business 
of killing them for heads, hides, and tusks, but residents of the game 
country have sometimes engaged in the same nefarious practice. 


Probably the last wild elk of the original stock east of the Mis- 
sissippi was killed in November, 1867, in Elk County, Pa., though 
possibly a few remained a little longer in the mountains of West 
Virginia. A few wealthy men have stocked private preserves with 
elk from the Rocky Mountains, and the experiment of acclimatizing 
them in the East has proved uniformly successful. A number of 
preserves in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, 
Pennsylvania, and North Carolina have been noted for fine herds of 
these animals, the best known, perhaps, being those of Austin Corbin 


and William C. Whitney, both deceased. The Corbin preserve is on 
Croyden Mountain, near Newport, N. H., and the Whitney pre- 
serve was on October Mountain, near Lenox, Mass. At Mount Po- 
cono, Pennsylvania, Garl Tielenius has a considerable herd of elk, 
kept on lands over which the wild elk ranged in the early part of 
the last century. 

The New York Forest, Fish, and Game Commission have made in 
the Adirondacks the first systematic efforts in the East to restore 
elk to their former ranges. In June, 1901, the late William C. 
Whitney presented 22 head of elk — 5 bulls and 17 cows — from his 
Massachusetts herd. This was followed in 1902 and 1903 by two gifts 
of larger herds from the same source and in 1906 by a gift of a herd 
of 26 from Mr. Corbin's Blue Mountain Forest Park, in New Hamp- 
shire. The elk were liberated in small bands at various places, 
mostly on state lands, and their increase has been satisfactory. It 
was estimated that on December 31, 1906, the total number at large 
in the Adirondacks was about 350 head. a The elk, under proper pro- 
tection, may be expected to become abundant again in the North 
Woods. The example of New York might well be followed by all 
States that have wild lands suitable for the elk. Pennsylvania has 
ideal places for the animals in her game preserves recently estab- 
lished, and all the States traversed by the Allegheny Mountain ranges 
have abundant wild lands for the introduction of the species. The 
cost of stocking with the animals would be slight compared with their 
ultimate value to the State. In New Hampshire there is reason to 
suppose that the beginning of a wild herd exists in animals that 
have escaped from the Corbin preserve. Forty-eight elk in one 
herd are reported to have been recently seen running at large in the 
forests. 5 


Although the American wapiti is less prolific than the common 
deer and some other species that have been bred in parks, it increases 
quite as fast as the red deer and is more hardy and easily managed. 
It has been successfully acclimatized in many parts of the world, 
and in England and on the Continent it has been crossed with both 
the Altai wapiti and the red deer. The hybrids in both cases were 
superior to the native stock in size and stamina. 

The elk has been successfully bred in confinement in many parts 
of the United States, and in some instances has been domesticated. 
Audubon and Bachman say of it: 

This species can be easily domesticated, as we have observed it in menageries 
and in parks both of Europe and America. The males, like those of the Vir- 

° Field and Stream, XII, 598, November, 1907. 
b Recreation, XXVII, 129, March, 1908. 


ginia deer, as they advance in age, by their pugnacious habits are apt to become 
troublesome and dangerous. The elk lives to a great age, one having been kept 
in the possession of the elder Peale, of Philadelphia, for thirteen years; we 
observed one in the park of a nobleman in Austria that had been received from 
America twenty-five years before. 

Professor Baird was of the opinion that the elk could easily be 
domesticated, and that, next to the caribou and the moose, it is the 
" one to which we are most entitled to look for an increase of our 
stock of domestic animals. The great size of the horns of the male, 
and his fierceness and uncontrollability during the rutting season, 
are certainly obstacles in the way of reducing the elk to the rank of 
a servant to man; nevertheless they are not unsurmountable, after 
all." He suggested that, as in the case of the buck of the common 
deer, castration would effectually subdue the animal. He suggested 
further that if the social instinct is necessary to the complete 
domestication of an animal, no deer possesses it in a higher degree 
than the elk, which is often found in immense herds. 6 

One of the earliest successful attempts to domesticate the round- 
horned elk was made by Col. John Mercer, of Cedar Park, West 
River. Md. Colonel Mercer obtained his stock from St. Louis about 
seventy-five or eighty years ago. The animals were transported to 
Wheeling by water and thence to West River by way of Cumber- 
land on foot. A few other breeders obtained stock from Colonel 
Mercer, among them Col. Joseph Tuley, of Millwood, Clarke 
County, Va. 

Lorenzo Stratton, of Little Valley, Cattaraugus County, N. Y., 
began experiments with this species about sixty years ago. In a 
letter addressed to D. J. Browne, and dated January 12, 1859, he 

The American elk, with all its claims to attention, is fast disappearing from 
the earth, with scarcely an effort for its preservation or domestication. By 
domestication I do not mean simply taming, but a course of intelligent breed- 
ing and protection. A series of experiments with this animal * * * has 
furnished me with sufficient evidence to say confidently that this business may 
be made of great importance to the country. * * * I have now a herd so 
gentle that a visitor at my farm would hardly imagine that their ancestors 
only three generations back were wild animals. * * * 

The facility for extending this business may easily be conceived. New York 
alone might support 100,000 elks on land where our domestic cattle could not 
subsist; furnishing an amount of venison almost incredible; while the adjoin- 
ing State of Pennsylvania, to say nothing of others, might sustain a still larger 
number without encroaching upon an acre of land now used for stock rearing, 
or any other purpose connected with agriculture. 

a The Quadrupeds of North America, II, 92, 1851. 

b Report U. S. Com. Patents (Agriculture) for 1851, p. 118, 1852. 

c Report U. S. Com. of Patents (Agriculture) for 1858, p. 237, 1859. 


At a meeting of the American Institute in New York January 6, 
1862, Mr. Stratton gave a detailed account of his experience in 
domesticating the elk, in which he said, in part : 

About eight years ago I had an opportunity to purchase two elks. I did so as 
a matter of curiosity and because I wished to see a few specimens of this for- 
ester preserved, as my place is situated in the region where they used to roam 
in countless numbers. They did well and bred. I fenced off a few acres for 
them, and found after a while that I could certainly raise venison cheaper thau 
my neighbors could raise beef. I devoted a large plat of stony, bushy land, 
unfit for any other purpose, to them. Since then I have succeeded in breeding 
37 elk. I have had no accident of any kind amongst them, and they have fatt,ed 
and bred regularly and have become quite domesticated. The does have been 
gentle and act like domestic cattle. The bucks have been also gentle until they 
were about 4 years old, when they have been difficult to manage in September 
and October, like a bull or stud-horse. In such cases I generally made venison 
of them. Excepting these instances, however, the animals are quite docile. 
The first fawn that I raised was very shy. He was in a lot of about 15 acres, 
and when I went to him he would flee from me, so that I could hardly get a 
sight at him. The next fawns raised were not so frightened when they saw 
me, and now when I go into the field the young fawns are like so many calves. 
My lot is fenced with common rails, 6 or 7 feet high, and there is no difficulty 
in keeping the animals within bounds. Frequently, when the fence may get 
down, they go out into a neighboring piece of woods, but as soon as anything 
startles them they run for their own field again, and feel safe only when they 
arrive there. They are not inclined to stray off. This lot in which they are 
confined they consider as their home, and chase off any dogs that may come 
upon it. In four generations, by kind treatment, I have, as I contend, not 
merely succeeded in taming them, but in domesticating them. They are as 
gentle as sheep that run wild. * * * 

* * * The great profit in raising them, however, is for their meat. They 
live and fatten on useless land. Where the feeding ground is brush they will 
destroy it; but the grass will come up more profusely on this account in the 
summer ; and it has the result of giving them better feed in the summer though 
not so good in the winter. I paid $400 for the first pair I bought ; I have bought 
2 does since then, from which, with the first pair, I have raised my whole stock ; 
I have been at various unnecessary expenses, from the fact that I did not know 
how to manage them ; I can now raise elk cheaper than I can sheep ; I have a 
3-year-old buck, weighing 480 pounds, which has cost me less than any 3-year-old 
sheep I have got. I have been anxious to introduce them as common stock and 
have sold them for $100 a pair. A great many are afraid to buy them, for fear 
they will get away and go wild again. They see me go into the field and all 
the flock come about me, and each one tries to get his nose into my pocket ; but 
they say, " I don't believe I could do that." They think there is some Rarey secret 
about it. When I go into the lot, I generally carry a little handful of salt, or 
grain, or something which they like, which makes them come about me. * * * 

I think there is no better meat than that of the elk ; it is richer and more 
juicy than the meat of the deer ; I killed a 2-year-old doe this year which had 
had no fawn ; she was very fat ; I took 29 pounds of tallow from her, and she 
weighed 282 pounds dressed, the skin weighing 28 pounds. 

At the same meeting Mr. Trimble stated that several years pre- 
viously, while traveling over the prairie in Illinois, he had seen at a 


house where he stopped a full-grown elk perfectly domesticated. 
There were no fences about and it never attempted to run away. a 

The final outcome of the Stratton experiment at Little Valley was 
recorded in a communication to Forest and Stream by Mr. E. L. 
Stratton, of Grand View, Tenn., a brother of Lorenzo Stratton. He 
stated that so far as the experiment was carried it was a complete 
success. " Had there been a moderate amount of capital invested, 
with a larger territory of cheap mountain land added, and with 
close attention to the business, it would have been a profitable invest- 
ment and doubtless would have shown handsome dividends. But 
when we decided to move South, the elk business had to be aban- 
doned. Most of the stock on hand was bought by some foreigners 
and shipped by rail to New York, thence some to Italy and the 
rest to Germany, and three or four were slaughtered at home." 6 

In 1887 T. D. Kellogg, of Whitestone, Long Island, contributed to 
the New York Herald an interesting account of his observations on 
domesticating the wapiti, made when a pioneer in northwestern Iowa 
in the fifties. Mr. Kellogg said that at that time elk roamed over 
all the plains of that part of Iowa, but already in diminishing num- 
bers. In the spring when a settler had killed a doe elk he would occa- 
sionally take home a suckling fawn in his arms and bring it up by 
hand. Two settlers whom he knew well had each an elk thus domes- 
ticated, and several similar instances came to his knowledge. These 
settlers had no inclosure except a small garden patch, from which 
stock was excluded by a rude fence. 

The tame elk, let loose upon the open prairie, were at full liberty, 
and although born in a wild state they never joined a passing herd 
nor roamed far from home. They gave no trouble by getting into 
the garden or injuring the fence. They were less timid than sheep, 
although not so familiar as dogs. " Probably no animal in existence," 
says Mr. Kellogg, " is naturally fitted to take so kindly to domestica- 
tion as this noble creature, so rapidly disappearing from the face of 
the earth." G 

Judge John D. Caton, of Illinois, who contributed so much to our 
knowledge of the deer family and of their susceptibility to domestica- 
tion, seems to have been unfortunate in having inclosures poorly 
adapted to deer. He believed that his pastures contained some kind 
of vegetable food that was harmful to most of the species, but his 
elk were always healthy. Writing in 1880, Judge Caton said : 

My elk continue to do well and are so prolific that I have had repeatedly to 
reduce their numbers and would be glad now to dispose of at least 30. I 

a Trans. Am. Institute for 1861-62, pp. 220-223, 1862. 

& Forest and Stream, XLVIII, 445, June 5, 1897. 

c The American Field, XXVIII, 126, August 6, 1887. 


have on an average about one old buck a year killed in battle and sometimes 
another by some casualty, but all appear healthy. Mine grow very large and 
of all the Cervidse they seem best adapted to domestication. 

With few exceptions former attempts to rear elk were made by 
men who were wealthy and actuated only by a desire to possess or 
to preserve the animals. Care of them was left to servants. The 
bucks remained uncastrated until they became old and unmanageable, 
when the serious problem of caring for them soon outweighed the 
novelty of their possession, and the experiments were abandoned. 
This will account for the failure of many of the herds that were 
founded a half century or more ago. 

But these breeders of the elk have not been without successors, and 
at present there are small herds of elk under private ownership in 
many places in the United States. The Biological Survey has re- 
cently opened communication with owners of herds of elk and deer, 
for the purpose of learning their experience in rearing the animals 
and obtaining their opinions as to the feasibility of making the busi- 
ness profitable. Extracts from recent correspondence referring to 
the wapiti, or elk, follow: 

Joshua Hill, of Pontiac, Mich., wrote, October 12, 1907, that he has 
elk and bison in his preserve of 300 acres. He finds the sale of elk 
meat slow, but thinks that, if properly pushed, the business of grow- 
ing it would pay well. In his opinion the elk would be more profitable 
than deer, since the animals are larger and the venison better. He has 
heard of elk meat bringing 50 cents to $1 per pound. 

Isaac A. Bonine, of Niles, Mich., wrote, under date of October 14, 
1907, stating that he had been breeding both the elk and deer for 
about thirty-five years. He said : " We find that deer are not so hardy 
as elk and require more care. Elk require less care than the domestic 
animals, while deer are even more delicate. Deer should have a greater 
variety of food than elk. Elk winter well on hay and corn fodder 
with a little grain, and they live and thrive during summer months 
on blue grass. Deer will live on the foods mentioned here for elk, but 
they should have vegetables also. They require an open shed or 
shelter of some sort during winter; an elk requires none. The grow- 
ing of both elk and deer for park purposes may be made profitable.' 5 

J. W. Gilbert, of Friend, Nebr., states (March 17, 1908) that he has 
been growing deer and elk for seventeen years. The deer have not 
always done well, but he now has a healthy herd of about 30 head. 
The elk have increased and done well all the time. He has never had 
a barren cow elk. Mr. Gilbert's range of 75 acres is on the open 
prairie, and contains buffalo, deer, and elk. 

F. J. Wilson, of Lewisburg, Ohio, began raising elk and deer a few 
years ago, with three head of each at first. He has not succeeded so 

American Naturalist, XIV, 396, April, 1880. 


well with deer as with the elk. Deer require a higher fence and more 
care. The elk do well on hay, corn fodder, and other rough feed ; if 
they escape from an inclosure they can be driven back like cattle. 
Mr. Wilson paid $165 for 2 adult elk and a fawn. He has sold $300 
worth of stock, and, in 1908, had a herd of 12 head, worth $1,000. 

The experience of Carl Tielenius with his herd at Mount Pocono, 
Pa., is less satisfactory. He began about the year 1890 with 26 head 
of 2-year-old elk, 22 of which were cows. The first year they pro- 
duced 23 calves, and in the following four years 22, 18, 16, and 12, 
respectively. In later years with about 80 cows the number of calves 
has ranged from 5 to 10 per year. The herd is healthy, but reproduc- 
tion is deficient in spite of the infusion of new blood by the introduc- 
tion of bulls from the Whitney herd. It is possible that, as Judge 
Caton suspected to be the trouble in his herd, the bulls at Mount 
Pocono exhaust themselves by much fighting before the rut begins. 


Col. W. C. Wetmore, of St. Louis, writes under date of April 20, 
1908, that the St. Louis Park and Agricultural Company, of which he 
is a member, owns several thousand acres of land in Taney County, 
Mo. The land is in the Ozark Mountains and the ground rough and 
hilly, though well watered. A little of the upland and some of the 
valleys are tillable, and corn and oats are grown in the former and 
corn and alfalfa in the latter — enough to feed the game when snow 
prevents their finding their ordinary food. The preserve is sur- 
rounded with an 8- foot wire fence, and in it are now about 400 elk 
and 1,000 deer. 

Colonel Wetmore writes further : 

They are hearty and healthy and do well in every way and at all times are 
fat and marketable. I am thoroughly convinced that the raising of both elk 
and deer can be made very profitable where the ground, water, and other condi- 
tions are favorable. Deer increase very rapidly, as a doe usually drops twins 
after she is three years old. Elk do not increase so rapidly, cow elk dropping a 
calf every other year, but they are hardy, and with an experience of over 
twenty years I have not known one to die of natural causes. * * * I am a 
lover of all wild game, particularly deer and elk, and I hope you will be suc- 
cessful in interesting people in propagating them. Give them plenty of room to 
run in and they will do well. 

George W. Russ, of Eureka Springs, Ark., has a herd of 93 elk 
(1909) . They have ample range in the Ozarks on rough land covered 
with hardwood forest and abundant underbrush. He reports that the 
animals improve the forest by clearing out part of the thicket. 
Fully 90 per cent of the females produce healthy young, and Mr. 
Russ thinks he could make the business of growing elk for market 
profitable if the law would permit him to kill and export the meat. 


He has an offer of 40 cents a pound for the dressed carcasses in St. 
Louis. If, as he claims, he can produce elk meat cheaper than beef, 
pork, or mutton, this should be a remunerative price. He thinks that 
large areas in the Alleghenies and Ozarks not now utilized could be 
economically adapted to produce venison for sale, and he regards 
the American elk as especially suited for forest grazing. 

Mr. Euss, in a letter dated Eureka Springs, Ark., March 7, 1908, 
sent the Department of Agriculture, through H. N. Vinall, Bureau 
of Plant Industry, the following answers to the several questions 
propounded : 

Question 1. How many acres per elk of forest land is needed for best results? 

Answer. Much depends upon the character of the forest land. In this section 
of the Ozark Mountains an average of 5 acres to the head. In other sections a 
larger area will be necessary. The larger the area the better the results. One 
hundred elk will fare better in a 500-acre inclosure than one elk confined on 5 

Question 2. Would it be possible for individuals to raise elk under grazing 
permits in large tracts like the national forests without fencing, by some method 
of feeding in a certain place or by herding? 

Answer. We think it possible to raise elk by individuals having permits in 
the national forests, by a system of feeding in certain places, thereby locating 
these animals on the range best fitted for them, and by loose herding by well- 
trained men familiar with their habits. But there are so many contingencies 
to be reckoned with on an open range that in our opinion it would be far 
preferable to fence. 

Question 3. What is the cost per mile in forest land of an elk fence? 

Answer. Again, much depends on distance from railroad, cost of labor, etc. ; 
but ordinarily where posts and stays cost nothing but the making of them a 
good elk fence can be built for about $200 per mile. 

Question 4. Will the elk do any considerable damage to a forest in restricting 
the growth of young trees of valuable species? 

Answer. Elk will feed on buds and leaves 8 feet above the ground, and any 
growth up to or under this is liable to be eliminated, depending upon the amount 
of such food. Unless the range is very much restricted they will not eat the 
bark from trees, neither will they resort to any species of evergreen. (PL IV.) 

Question 5. What has been the per cent of increase in your herd under domes- 

Answer. The increase in elk under domestication is equal to that of cattle. 

Question 6. What is the average weight of an adult male? Of a female? 
Answer. Male, 700 to 1,000 pounds ; female, 600 to 800 pounds. 

Question 7. Will they not give a greater per cent of dressed meat than 

Answer. Yes; but owing to the game laws our experience has been limited 
to a few animals. The per cent of dressed meat is much more. 

Bui. 36, Biological Survey, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture. 

Plate IV. 

Bui. 36, Biological Survey U. S. Dept. of Agriculture. 

Plate V. 


Question 8. Is there at this time, or would there be in case the laws were 
revised, any general demand for elk meat? At what price? 

Answer. In answer to this question, we can be guided only by the very 
limited demand, owing to the law prohibiting the sale of elk meat. We do, 
however, receive orders from parties not familiar with the law, and letters 
from many asking us if we are permitted to sell. From the fact that as 
high as $1.50 per pound has been paid for this meat in New York City and 
Canada, and that the best hotels and restaurants pronounce it the finest of all 
the meats of mammals, we are of the opinion that if the laws were such that 
domesticated elk meat could be furnished it would be many years before the 
supply would make the price reasonable compared with other meats. 

Question 9. What price per pound would you consider necessary to make the 
production of elk meat profitable? 

Answer. Elk meat can be produced in many sections of this country for 
less cost per pound than beef, mutton, or pork. 

Question 10. What laws, state or national, at present interfere with the 
production and sale of elk meat? What are your recommendations for revising 
these laws? 

Answer. The remedy to the state and national laws is very simple, and at 
the same time just and equitable. By simply adding or inserting the word 
" wild " before the name of the animal protected. To guard against abuses, 
a certificate from the owner of domesticated animals should follow them, and 
proper penalties should be imposed for any violation of the laws. 

Question 11. Would the elk be adapted for browsing in the Appalachian 
forests from Pennsylvania south to Georgia? 

Answer. Yes ; I am quite familiar with the Appalachian range, and consider 
it ideal. 

Question 12. Are they as useful as goats in clearing out underbrush? Is it 
best to use both goats and elk? 

Answer. They are more useful, as they will browse as low as goats and twice 
as high. I would earnestly recommend the use of both goats and elk for clearing 
up brushy land and fitting it for tame grasses. Elk and goats get along well in 
the same inclosure. 

Question 13. What area will they clear up per year in your section? Keep 
cleared ? 

Answer. So much depends on the amount of underbrush as to the average 
amount elk and goats will keep cleared. The conditions in a mountainous 
country are much more diversified than in a level one, the growth of underbrush 
and timber often changing radically in a fourth of a mile. The average condi- 
tions in this range of mountains can only be estimated approximately. Our ex- 
perience has taught us that to get the best results, after stocking with elk and 
goats, it is best to wait one year before seeding, then continue with elk and 
goats two years more ; when, if properly seeded and pastured, an open wood- 
land pasture of tame grasses will be obtained (Plate V). To accomplish this, 
our estimate would be an average of one elk and two goats to 5 acres. When 
the underbrush and weeds have been eliminated by elk and goats, they will be 
very slow in coming in again. The life has been destroyed by the continued 
browsing on bud and leaf, and not only is the stem dead but the root also. The 


perennial weeds have been treated the same way. Those coming from seed 
must come from outside the fence, and will find the tame grasses in possession. 
Elk and goats fed on the falling leaves in the fall, thus lessening the covering 
of grasses. Tame grasses will not thrive under a thick coating of dead leaves. 

Question 14. Is the forest open enough after their work to permit the growth 
of grass? 

Answer. Elk and goats do not open up dense forests, except undergrowth. 
It is necessary to have considerable light and sun for the growing of tame 

Question 15. After the forest land has been cleared and seeded to tame grass, 
could sheep be grazed in the same lot as the elk? 

Answer. In reply to this question, we answer from long experience that 
cattle, sheep, and goats can be grazed in the same lots with elk, providing, 
however, that the lots or inclosures are not small — the larger the area the bet- 
ter; and we know of no more appropriate place to call attention to the great 
benefit of a few elk in the same pasture with sheep or goats. An elk is the 
natural enemy of dogs and wolves. We suffered great losses to our flocks until 
we learned this fact ; since then we have had no loss from that cause. A few 
elk in a thousand-acre pasture will absolutely protect the flocks therein. Our 
own dogs are so well aware of the danger in our elk park that they can not 
be induced to enter it. 

In your note you invite us to suggest any other points not covered by your 
questions. We think of nothing but feed and shelter. Nature has provided the 
elk with a winter coat of hair, which is in itself ample protection from any 
weather conditions, and which makes artificial protection unnecessary. All that 
is needed is feed, and on account of their browsing on that which is already in 
our hills and low mountains but little provision is needed. Like cattle, they are 
fond of grain and can be fattened on it, but may be kept in good condition 
during the winter on very little roughness. To be more explicit, one-half the 
ration per pound required for cattle will do for elk. We have opinions about 
caring for and domesticating the wild elk, saving to the nation what yet remains, 
and using them as a nucleus for general domestication and distribution. These 
views we will gladly furnish if desired. 


The experience of Mr. Stratton at Little Valley, N. Y., recounted 
in the preceding pages, gives an excellent foundation for practice in 
developing a true domesticity in the wapiti ; but for economic reasons 
it may not always be possible for the raiser of the elk to adopt the 
same methods. He may wish to grow the animals for venison only 
and on large preserves where the calves can not be tamed when young. 
But when the elk is grown for stocking parks and private preserves, 
the tamer the herd the easier will it be to handle and ship the stock. 


The natural food supply is an important consideration in choosing 
a range for the elk. While elk have done well in blue-grass pas- 
ture and on the prairie grasses alone, they do far better on preserves 

Bui. 36, Biological Survey, U. S. Dept. ot Agriculture. 

Plate VI. 


which have a variety of food — grasses, bushes, and trees. Eough 
lands well watered by streams and having a considerable proportion 
of forested area are best adapted to their wants. On an average such 
lands will support about the same number of elk as of cattle on the 
same area without impairing the range. There should be thickets 
enough to furnish winter browse for the animals. A supply of winter 
forage of other kinds will prevent the too rapid destruction of shrub- 
bery in thickets. 


Except in times of snow, elk will keep in excellent condition on 
ordinary grass pasture, but a system of management which regularly 
furnishes other food to the animals will be found better. For winter, 
hay and corn fodder furnish excellent forage; but alfalfa hay has 
proved to be the most satisfactory dry food that can be given to 
either elk or deer. A little oats or corn, whole or chopped, may be 
fed each day. Elk are fond of corn, and feeding corn and salt 
affords the best opportunities for winning confidence of the animals 
and taming them. Salt should be furnished liberally to all deer kept 
in inclosures. Eunning water, although not essential, is of great im- 
portance in maintaining elk in good condition. (Plate VI shows 
a small herd of elk at feeding place in winter.) 


Elk are not nervous like the common deer and seldom jump an 
ordinary fence. A fence 5 feet in height is usually sufficient to con- 
fine elk, and Henry Binning, of Cora, Wyo., thinks a 4-foot woven- 
wire fence is ample. When they escape from an inclosure in which 
they have been fed they usually return of their own accord. Some 
herds may be driven like ordinary cattle. A small inclosure for a 
vicious bull elk should have a strong fence, 7 or 8 feet high. Mr. Russ 
tells us that where lumber for posts is cheap a good elk fence can be 
built for $200 a mile, but the actual cost will, of course, vary greatly, 
according to style, cost of labor, nearness to market, and other 


The cost of stocking an elk preserve is not great. Young elk in 
perfect condition may be bought for $100 per head or less. A few 
years ago Mr. Wilson, of Lewisburg, Ohio, paid $165 for 3 head. 
A Michigan breeder recently offered a dozen head, all fine specimens, 
but age and sex not given, for $500. This is, of course, a low price, 
not more than cattle would bring, and less than the venison would be 
worth if they could be sold in that form. The price of such stock is 
determined by the law of supply and demand, and as long as the 


present restrictions on the sale of deer and elk are maintained, low 
prices are likely to prevail. Live elk sold at forced sale have been 
known to net the owners less than $25 a head, but conditions would 
soon change if the laws concerning the sale and shipment of venison 
were generally made favorable for producing it in preserves. The 
demand for breeding stock would grow and increase the cost of start- 
ing, as well as the returns from the business. 


Notwithstanding the viciousness of the male elk in the rutting 
season, he is ordinarily docile, probably more so than the buck of the 
common deer. Male elk have frequently been trained to harness 
and driven in public. Lorenzo Stratton trained a pair to harness 
and began exhibiting them at the Cattaraugus County (N. Y.) fair in 
1853. They were a feature of the fair for several years, until he sold 
them in Europe. Exhibitions of trotting elks were common at county 
fairs in the Middle West a few years ago. W. H. Barnes, of Sioux 
City, Iowa, trained a pair and drove them harnessed to a light vehicle. 
He afterwards taught one of them to dive from a platform 30 feet 
high into a pool of water, and later he exhibited the animal in this 
act to admiring crowds in Europe. 

The intractability of the male elk is not exceptional among deer 
kept in confinement, but his great size, his long, sharp-pointed antlers, 
and his thick skin, that renders him insensible to pain, make him 
much more formidable than the common deer. Several tragedies 
connected with attempts to domesticate the elk are matters of history. 
One recorded by Judge Caton occurred in his park. 6 Another took 
place at Bull City, Osborne County, Kans., October 12, 1879, in which 
Gen. H. C. Bull was instantly killed, two other men mortally 
wounded, and a fourth seriously injured by the attacks of an infuri- 
ated elk that had previously been regarded as tame and docile. 

Deer and elk that are wild and unconfined will, under nearly all 
circumstances, run from man. When wounded they have been known 
to attack hunters; but it is unlikely that an uninjured wild bull elk 
would attack a human being even during the rut. The tame or par- 
tially tame animals that have become familiar with man are the ones 
to be feared. However, not all individuals become ill-tempered or 

It should be borne in mind that all deer when confined in small in- 
closures and partly domesticated are likely to become dangerous 

° Since the above paragraph was written Farmers' Bulletin No. 330, Deer 
Farming in the United States, has been issued, and an unusual demand for deer 
and elk for breeding purposes has developed. Consequently prices are consider- 
ably higher. 

& The Antelope and Deer of America, p. 285, 1877. 


whether they have antlers or not. They can strike a vicious blow 
with the front feet; and a strong man, taken unawares, may easily 
be disabled or even killed by a doe of the common deer. To over- 
come the tendency to bad temper in deer would require many genera- 
tions of breeding under domestication. It can not be quickly eradi- 
cated by petting the animals ; on the contrary, it is usually increased 
by overfamiliarity. Children and strangers should be excluded from 
parks and paddocks that contain deer known to be vicious. Special 
precautions should be taken during the rut and when does have very 
young fawns. Persons with whom the animals are familiar should 
be constantly on the alert against surprise. In the rutting season no 
adult male deer or elk, however mild he may be at other times, should 
be trusted. 

The remedy for viciousness in the male deer is castration. This 
makes the animal docile. It is unsafe to keep an uncastrated male 
elk over 4 years old, except in a strongly fenced inclosure. If the 
operation is performed when the horns are fully developed, they will 
be shed at the usual time and a new pair will take their place, but 
will not fully mature nor lose the velvet. 

Another effect of castration is improvement in the quality of the 
meat, just as in the production of beef, pork, and mutton. Venison 
grown in preserves under a system in which all the male animals 
intended for slaughter are castrated should be uniformly of the 
highest quality, far superior to that obtained in the wild state during 
the usual open season for hunting, which comes during the rut or soon 
after. This is of great importance in fixing the final status of veni- 
son grown in private preserves. 


The statement by Mr. Russ in his report on raising the elk in the 
Ozarks, to the effect that elk are enemies of dogs and wolves, is of 
more than passing interest. Judge Caton reported a similar ani- 
mosity of his elk toward dogs, and stated that the does always led 
in the chase of dogs that got into the elk park. If it is true that 
these animals when umhampered by deep snow will attack and van- 
quish dogs and wolves and thus help to protect domestic animals 
grazing in the same pastures, a knowledge of the fact may prove use- 
ful to stockmen and especially to sheep growers. It should be of 
great advantage in changing from a system of herding to the use 
of fenced pastures for flocks. 

It is doubtful whether the enmity of elk for dogs and wolves ex- 
tends to the animals outside of fenced pastures. Ex-President Roose- 
velt in Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter reports having 
seen a coyote walking unnoticed among a herd of elk in Yellow- 


stone National Park. Thomas Blagden, of Washington, D. C, in- 
forms the writer that elk taken from the Whitney preserve to Upper 
Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks always ran from barking dogs, and 
were frequently chased from the grounds of cottages near Saranac 
Inn by this means; but possibly the presence of men with the dogs 
had much to do with the fleeing of the elk. 


Since the whitetail is the most widely distributed of American 
Cervidse, there can be no question of its adaptability to nearly all sec- 
tions of the United States. Testimony as to its hardiness in parks 
and preserves is not so unanimous as in case of the wapiti ; but the 
general opinion of breeders is that with suitable range, plenty of 
good water, and reasonable care in winter the business of raising 
the animals for stocking parks and for venison may be made as profit- 
able as any other live-stock industry. It has the advantage that land 
unsuited for cattle may be utilized in raising deer. 

Advocates of the Angora goat industry state that in the United 
States there are 250,000,000 acres of land riot suited for tillage nor 
as pasture for horses, cattle, or sheep, which are well adapted to 
goats. Much of this land is equally well suited to deer and elk, 
which do less injury than goats to the forest cover. 

Probably experiments in domestication have oftener been made 
with white-tailed deer than with any other North American mammal. 
The great beauty of the young fawns appealed to the earliest settlers, 
who soon learned how easily they could be tamed and how readily 
they attached themselves to those who fed them. The danger from 
these same pets, especially the males, when grown, was soon learned